Classification is the process by which Paralympic athletes are placed in the most appropriate group for competing following an assessment of their impairment.

Classification processes of each Paralympic Sport share common features, but as the functional activities of each sport or discipline vary, the outcomes of the process are specific to each sport.

Classification is the bedrock of the Paralympic movement, without it competitive sport is not possible, or meaningful. To codify, benchmark and raise standards in this critical area the BPA have published the UK Athlete Classification Code.

The UK Athlete Classification Code also supports the implementation of the IPC Athlete Classification Code and its International Standards.

The UK Athlete Classification Code can be read via this link.

The IPC Athlete Classification Code and its International Standards can be read via this link.

How does classification work?

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.

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 range of sport and impairment specific tests that measure the athlete’s impairment against the sport’s classification rules.

What is Intentional misrepresentation?

Intentional misrepresentation is a contravention of the rules and is considered an offence when either 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 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.

Intentional misrepresentation is one of the biggest risks to the integrity of Paralympic sport as the general public and athletes must believe that an athlete’s classification is based on honesty.

That is why the British Paralympic Association has been at the forefront of lobbying for the strong sanctions that now exist – a ban of up to 4 years for a first offence - for any individual, British or international, found guilty of this.

How do I report concerns of Intentional Misrepresentation?

Anyone with relevant information of genuine concerns of Intentional Misrepresentation should report those concerns either to their sport’s National Governing Body, or where there are reasons those concerns cannot be shared with the National Governing Body (NGB) of the sport, information should be sent to classification@paralympics.org.uk. This will reach the BPA Classification Manager, who will take all such concerns seriously and follow appropriate processes to ensure they are actioned.

This includes cross-referencing this information alongside information previously received, consulting with UK Sport’s Head of Sport Integrity, forwarding this information to the respective NGB with our recommendation for action and maintaining oversight of follow-up actions taken by the NGB.

Any intentional misrepresentation concerns raised in the knowledge that they are untrue, or are intended to be malicious or cause distress, will also be taken seriously and the matter may be referred for further review and possible disciplinary action.

The following on their own are not considered examples of Intentional Misrepresentation:

  • Performance data: athletes improving or excelling in their sport

  • Variance within a class: athletes being in the same class but appearing to have different levels of impairment

Please also note that no charge may be brought in respect of Intentional Misrepresentation where ten years or more have passed since the date that the incident is alleged to have occurred.