‘I Want Justice’: André Brasil Speaks Out Against IPC Classification System

After the IPC‘s surprising decision in April to reclassify him as ineligible for para swimming, 14-time S10 Paralympic medalist André Brasil is speaking out against the classification system.

“What I would like is to understand what happened after almost 15 years in the adapted sport, plus others in the conventional sport, where I fit, if I do not have this limitation, since also I can not compete in conditions of equality in the Olympic sport,” Brasil told Brazilian site Lance.com (translated from Portuguese). “They doubted me when I joined the Paralympic. But my limitation has not changed since then. Childhood paralysis was attested, my limitation today will die with me. There was no improvement or worsening of the condition. I only have losses, because I am going to age with years of overload for the effort of years as an athlete. I will not have any winnings. It’s very subjective in my head and confusing for people to explain. Take a point that takes me out of the sport, with an ankle motion justification. You can not be an amateur to the point of bringing the human being to a number. Let’s leave the system more objective.”

The 34-year-old Brazilian spent the last 14 years classified as an S10. He had polio as a child, and as a result, one of his legs is five centimeters shorter than the other. Brasil also has no feeling, strength, or balance in the left leg, and despite seven surgeries as a child, it could not be remedied, according to Globo Esporte.

So, how does he think the system should change? Currently, swimmers undergo physical, technical in-sport, and technical in-competition assessments to – in theory – reach a proper classification. In 2018, World Para Swimming revised the process to put more of an emphasis on the in-water observation portion of the technical assessment; it essentially scores athletes by observing their “swimming behavior,” namely propulsion and drag. This is a shift from the past method, which simply entailed subtracting points from an athlete’s physical score based on a given impairment.

SwimSwam has published multiple interviews over the past two years with swimmers who agree with Brasil that the test should be more objective, including Trischa Zorn, the most decorated athlete in Paralympic history.

“In assessing ankle movement, the guy puts his hand up like a general practitioner and quantifies you as to the strength. But if I have 25% strength in all four ankle movements, this is not considered. As far as biomechanics is concerned, one can not isolate a movement from the general performance analysis. I do internal and external rotation of the shoulder in devices, for example, and it is finding out what I have of force. But in the water, I do not have it,” Brasil said.

“When the evaluator, with the naked eye, says that I have a foot movement that is not ideal for Paralympic swimming, he is talking about something that also starts from my hip. I can not separate my leg from the rest. Out of the water, the discrepancy is immense. They said that I have a minimum foot movement, which is not quantified in manual. I see a misunderstanding. These people often gain more importance than a technician. And they define not only the class, but the life of a human being. They are volunteers. It’s not a job. I understand that today sport is like a company. So the error starts there.”

The current classification system, Brasil said, hurts the Paralympic movement.

“We lose credibility. There are athletes who were above [S5/SB4] Daniel Dias‘ classes, with stronger times, and fell to his class. So he lost world records. This makes a reference unfeasible. It is very difficult for us to gain and have credibility. How will I present to the press and a sponsor that we have a cohesive and honest sport if these inconsistencies happen? We had Paralympic Games and gained notoriety. The world undergoes transformations, and Paralympic sport has evolved. Phelipe Rodrigues, who stayed in my class, is a guy who has been swimming strong. We have great proximity in results. On the other hand, I do not swim the 100m free for 47s, like Marcelo Chierighini, but for 53, 51 or 50.”

The Brazilian Paralympic Committee filed a formal protest to the IPC over Brasil’s ineligibility. He can be retested only if the IPC agrees to allow it at a sanctioned competition. Brasil could also take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I suffer from the inside, I feel this weight, but with the care and support of friends and family, from Brazil, it relieves. I do not want to please everyone,” Brasil said. “But I want justice.”

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3 years ago

The system is doesn’t work. Andre is a Paralympian. His is a great and beautiful swimmer. If you ever personally witnessed the asymmetry of his legs you would understand that, while he is very strong and has an amazing stroke, Andre at his best cannot compete against elite able-bodied swimmers Andre should be outraged, but he also should have been an advocate for the other Paralympians classed out because they had great coaching. He didn’t mind when other disabled athletes were classed-out by incompetent judges and flawed rules. It is unfortunate that he is experiencing this, but as one of the most visible Paralympic athletes, he should have used his platform to demand competent judges and rules that don’t penalize… Read more »

Para Fan
4 years ago

The classification system is a complete sham. Sophie Pascoe from New Zealand drops from a 10 to a 9, Andre Brasil is classed out…both have conditions that don’t change. Sometimes the IPC gets it right and sometimes terribly wrong. The IPC classification system seems to favor the Commonwealth countries and the US.

Reply to  Para Fan
4 years ago

This is the comparison I have tried to highlight. I have a huge admiration for both of these swimmers in and out of the pool, especially the class and respect that they have each brought to Paralympic sport globally. Their respective outcomes from the recent classifications however are nonsensical. Pascoe has been very vocal regarding classification and her competitors over the years, read her book Stroke of Fate. If Pascoe has, eventually and ‘genuinely’, been reclassified as S9, then Brasil should be S10. If, on the other hand, Pascoe has been moved because the IPC, in recognising how valuable she is to their brand, also recognised that she wasn’t a gold medal swimmer against the 1/2 hands then how competitive… Read more »

Reply to  NickW
4 years ago
Reply to  PAA
4 years ago

This operation would not make even the slightest bit of difference to her swimming ability.

Reply to  NickW
4 years ago

So you really think that she was moved to a 9 because “how valuable she is to their brand” rather than a surgery that remove her fibula?

4 years ago

If high profile athletes like Andres Brasil do not speak up on behalf of the sport and it’s athletes nothing will change. The only athlete I’ve noted to address the issue as a much wider one than his own outcome was Ian Silverman.

4 years ago

the systems seems to be so unprofessional

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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