Paralympics boss says system is 'robust'

Australia's team co-captains Ryley Batt and Danni Di Toro with Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin.
Australia's team co-captains Ryley Batt and Danni Di Toro with Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin.

More money, better performances, added pressure, vicious rumours, keyboard warriors - anyone in elite sport knows the ingredients around a cheating scandal.

Only this isn't some ugly doping saga but an issue that cuts to the very core of how the Paralympics are run.

Is the classification of athletes' disabilities being abused?

With initiatives such as Australia's Tokyo Paralympic medallists now receiving financial rewards from the federal government, there is growing incentive for athletes to manipulate the classification system.

"As the stakes get higher, there's more opportunity for people to want to do the wrong thing," Australian team chef de mission Kate McLoughlin told AAP.

"But all we can do is educate our athletes to the best of our ability about what is right and what is wrong and what their responsibilities are - in the same way we have with doping."

Remember the infamous Spanish basketball team, stripped of gold at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics because some of players were found to have no intellectual impairment?

Over the past few years, at least two Australian Tokyo gold medallists have been the subject of speculation about their classifications.

McLoughlin staunchly defended the Australian Tokyo team, saying all of the athletes had been through the international system and had their disabilities verified.

"Every Paralympic athlete ... has been through rigorous review, has (had a) confirmed classification, has been done multiple times," McLoughlin said.

"Every system is constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated as more information (is available) and more research is done."

But McLoughlin is the first to concede that as with anti-doping, no system is infallible.

"It's innate to Paralympic sport, it's never going to be perfect," she said.

"From the get-go, you cannot have 110 per cent fairness, because everybody's completely different.

"What you do have to do though is have trust in the system and we have full trust in the IPC classification system."

But does the system always get the classifications right? And are athletes gaming the system so they compete in a more severely impaired category?

One media report had allegations of athletes bandaging their limbs before medical exams so they would appear to have more limited ability.

But McLoughlin said the system of determining a Paralympian's classification is "very robust".

"A lot of the time in classifications, people become armchair experts ... they see someone in the pool ... and they think 'aww, they can't be, why are they in that?'," she said.

"They don't have medical expertise."

Australian Associated Press