Classification is the process by which Paralympic athletes are placed in the most appropriate group for competing following an assessment of their impairment.
As sports require different activities, the impact of the impairment on each sport differs, therefore, classification must be sport specific. For information of each sport’s classification system click here.
The first step in Paralympic classification is to determine if the athlete has an eligible impairment.
The Paralympic Movement offers sport opportunities for athletes that have at least one of ten eligible impairments. These impairments are listed in the IPC’s International Standard for Eligible Impairments. Each International Federation (IF) defines which of the ten eligible impairments they provide sports opportunities for. Some sports, like athletics and swimming provide opportunities for all ten eligible impairments while others, such as judo or goalball are limited to one impairment.
How does it work?
Every athlete who competes in Paralympic sport internationally must first submit medical evidence to the sport’s international federation (IF) and then be allocated a sport class by international classifiers. After this medical information has been reviewed by the IF and the athlete is deemed to have an eligible impairment they will be assessed by international classifiers.
The classifiers will administer a range of sport and impairment specific tests that measure the athlete’s impairment against the sport’s classification rules. The classifiers have the option of assigning a provisional class until they’ve seen the athlete compete.
Both the IPC and the BPA consider it best practice for athletes to undergo national classification prior to presenting for international classification. National classification aims to mirror each international federation’s classification rules, practices and outcomes. National classification serves to determine whether an athlete meets the sport’s minimum eligibility criteria as early as possible in their career and allows athletes competing in the UK to benchmark themselves against international competition standards.
The BPA employs a full-time Classification Manager, Iain Gowans, to work with our NGBs to support and develop sustainable, credible and robust national sport specific strategies and programmes.
Classifying athletes at national level is led by National Governing Bodies and at international level by International Federations.
Who can be Classifiers?
Classifiers are a type of technical official, like judges, umpires, referees and timekeepers, but specific to Paralympic sport. International classifiers are trained and accredited by the International Federation for that sport and work in panels of at least 2, reaching decisions by consensus.
A typical classification panel for athletes with a physical impairment is made up of one medical classifier (often a physio) and one technical classifier (can be a qualified coach or a bio-mechanic with experience in that sport). Athletes with a visual impairment are classified by optometrists and ophthalmologists. For athletes with an intellectual impairment, the role of a medical classifier is filled by a psychologist.
The classifiers administer a battery of sport and impairment specific tests that measure the athlete’s impairment against the sport’s classification rules.
Intentional misrepresentation is a contravention of the rules and is considered an offence when an athlete or athlete support personnel:
- attempts to deceive the classification panel during classification evaluation;
- deliberately presents at classification evaluation in a way that is inconsistent with how will they present for competition;
- fails to make a medical notification as to a change in circumstances that will or may affect a Sport Class; and/or
- knowingly assists, covers up or disrupts the evaluation process with the intention of deceiving or misleading the Classification Panel.
It is one of the biggest risks to the integrity of Paralympic sport as the general public and athletes must believe that competition is fair.
That is why the British Paralympic Association strongly supports investigating any allegations of intentional misrepresentation and has been at the forefront of lobbying for the strong sanctions that now exist – a ban of up to 4 years - for any individual, British or international, found guilty of this.
What is the process for challenging a Classification decision?
A national governing body (NGB) can protest to the International Federation (IF) if they wish to officially challenge how their athlete was allocated a sport class. NGBs can appeal to an independent hearing if they feel the IF have not adhered to their own classification rules in allocating a sport class.
To find out more go to https://www.paralympic.org/classification