Para Classification Chaos: New System Only Renews Past Woes

Over the past few weeks, news of para swimming athlete reclassifications have been flowing in.

That, however, was expected. In late 2017, World Para Swimming announced that it would implement a new classification process, effective January 1, 2018 – all athletes are required to undergo a new classification test in 2018 (with the exception of a few special cases, which can be found here).

What is newsworthy here is that the new process appears already to be failing, as well as highlighting the incorrect classifications of prominent para swimmers that World Para Swimming and the International Paralympic Committee have defended for years.

Para swimmers are classified into various categories to even the playing field within each race. Each swimmer is classified as having either a physical, visual, or intellectual impairment, and undergoes physical, technical in-sport, and technical in-competition assessments to reach a proper classification. Para swimming has been marred in recent years by cases of intentional misrepresentation (IM). This is when an athlete intentionally makes their impairment seem more severe in order to be put into the wrong disability class.

This issue has gone largely unaddressed by top officials.

Thus, as we get word of a number of reclassifications, (to state the obvious) the implication is that many classifications were indeed wrong before 2018. This is not to say that this new system is a total fix; while some new classifications have held so far, a few athletes have been reclassified and then switched back to their old classification within days.

Seeking answers to what is naturally driving questions from our staff and readers alike, SwimSwam reached out to USOC Paralympic Communications Press Officer Olivia Truby, who said, “The classification process for athletes is a confidential process.” Additionally, US para swimmers have reportedly been instructed not to communicate with media.

Another wrench in the books, is that with virtually every para-swimmer in the world being kicked back to the review process, many World Record-clearing swims aren’t being ratified. This was highlighted today when newly-reclassed British Swimmer Alice Thai broke the World Record in the S8 100 free. Her mother, on Twitter, questioned it, saying  that Lakeisha Patterson was faster at the Commonwealth Games. But, because Patterson’s class wasn’t confirmed within the allowable time period (which appears to be 6 weeks), that record won’t show up on the books.

It seems that this will again be a problem with Daniel Dias’ 50 free World Record-time that was clocked on Friday in Sheffield. It doesn’t appear as though he’s yet had his classification review, and he’s not on the schedule for the upcoming para-meet in Berlin, and it’s not clear where else he could be classified in the next 6 weeks.

Given how little transparency the sport is allowing and what little information we have, here’s the major news we can confirm so far (the WPS master list is yet to be updated, but results from the 2018 British Para Swimming International meet confirm a handful of swimmers):

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Fred
3 years ago

Whole thing is just too ridiculous for words.

LMA
3 years ago

GBs Alice Tai S10 – S8 v Oliver Hynd S8 – S9 is an all round head scratcher, Kearneys S7 – S5 is just whacko & the UKR male S10s remaining classifiable is interesting. Other than that it was ‘looking’ reasonable. The ratification of WRs to swimmers who only have a confirmed or review with fixed date status is sensible & that explains why the records set by Patterson in 2018 haven’t been ratified. However, how someone who is under ‘observation’ during the meet can set a WR is a bit of a wrinkle so this could be more of an afterthought rather than an attempt at putting the brakes on or any cleverness on the IPCs part.
Swimmers… Read more »

Taa
3 years ago

The biggest one that flew under the radar is Becca Meyers went from a 13 to 12 last week in Italy. Ahalya Lettenberg went from an 8 to 7 ar an earlier meet Elizabeth Marks in Copenhagen stayed an 8 but she had a foot amputation last summer so in theory she should have gotten moved down. There are tons more, several Chinese got moved up in Indianapolis but no one noticed. At the first World Cup in Copenhagen I did a quick count and 21/65 had their class changed. Some up some down. I actually have given up if you rely on humans to evaluate your place in the swimming world you are doomed to fail….just race yourself

Brutus
3 years ago

Robert Griswold is a GREAT ATHLETE and AWESOME PERSON. We are so proud of his success…Keep it up Robert!

Ian Silverman
3 years ago

“The classification process for athletes is a confidential process.” Statements like these is what is holding back any progress. It’s confidential because they don’t want people to know about all the tricks in the book and to avoid protest. I understand medical information is confidential, as it should be, but the lack of transparency is one of the main reasons why such egregious malpractice occurs.

If you wanna now about the classification process, I’m here.

Mark
Reply to  Ian Silverman
3 years ago

Tell me about it I recorded my daughters Classification and after listening to it the system is totally based on what the panel believe personally nothing to do with the medical evidence provided.
When one of the top orthopaedic surgeons written evidence is dismissed by a physiotherapist based on her own experience is allowed then it’s a pointless excercise.
You don’t even have to be observed during the race if they deem your condition is fully excepted

Maelstrom
Reply to  Ian Silverman
3 years ago

Not defending the system by any means, but how can it be transparent without it being an invasion of privacy?

LMA
Reply to  Maelstrom
3 years ago

Nor am I Maelstrom but I question why the medical documentation, necessary for classification purposes only, needs to / should be private if one wishes to compete as an eligible and authenticated Para athlete.

Steve Long
Reply to  Maelstrom
3 years ago

If an athlete wants to compete based on disability, they should waive their privacy regarding that disability. You can’t keep your age private when competing in age group meets. There is no secrecy around how much a person weighs in sports with weight classes. There is also no privacy regarding gender if there are male and female classes. We need the same transparency when it comes to disability classifications.

Christian
Reply to  Steve Long
2 years ago

I agree with you 100% Steve Long athletes should waive their privacy regarding their alleged disability, their should always be 100% transparency. Failure to do so, will always allow an avenue for the uncouth disability impostors/frauds, to continue to infiltrate and destroy Par-sport.

Truth
Reply to  Ian Silverman
3 years ago

So true – we’ve been waiting for years to see an NPC confront this. Instead they hide behind these statements and ask their athletes not to talk about it – so the athletes talk to everyone except the leaders of their NPC about it.

Pags
3 years ago

Probably gonna get down-voted like crazy on this, but it’s been on my chest a while and the door’s been opened here.

I respect the general dedication, determination, and skill of the para- athletes, but I really can’t get excited about class championships and records based on a system which tries to quantify the largely unquantifiable via some double-top-secret process, and then slices the results paper thin into so many classes. If you win and set a record, does that really mean you’re the best, or that you should have been classified up a category or two? Everyone who loses has a built in excuse. Everyone who wins has to defend their classification. No one’s a clear, unanimously deserving winner.… Read more »

Steve Long
3 years ago

All of this is the result of IPC and Para Swimming officials not dealing with obvious cases of Intentional Misrepresentation. Instead they require everyone to be reclassified and the fiasco continues.

Steve Long
3 years ago

The two swimmers I mentioned in my article (https://swimswam.com/father-paralympic-champion-jessica-long-speaks-cheating/) that were conveniently moved from S9 to S8 before Rio, have both been moved back to their correct S9 classifications. However, this does not address the issue of the medals stolen at the Rio Games while they were intentionally misrepresenting themselves as S8 swimmers.

Fred
Reply to  Steve Long
3 years ago

Not to mention the even more obvious third offender.

Christian
Reply to  Steve Long
2 years ago

Steve Long, I really feel so sorry for Jessica and your family, especially given the fact that Jessica a double leg amputee, and who is a genuine S8 swimmer, who was robbed by Australian cheat and cerebral palsy impostor Lakesia Paterson. I think if the worlds best investigative journalists properly investigated Para-sport, they would be able to expose these unethical and unscrupulous cheats and frauds. It was despicable and reprehensible at RIO when both Lakesia Patterson and the British cheat and fraud Stephanie Milllward, who robbed genuine S8 female Para swimmers, from both the Gold and Bronze medals. Note Patterson swam a 20 second personal best time to win both the Gold medal and break the world record. Also note… Read more »

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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