IPC not attending select committee is 'disappointing', says MP Damian Collins
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 05/12/17 5:17pm
The International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) failure to attend a select committee hearing on claims British athletes are cheating the classification system has been described as "disappointing" by the committee's chairman Damian Collins.
Classification underpins Paralympic sport as it is meant to ensure athletes compete against rivals with a similar level of impairment - any athlete in a class for people with greater impairment than they have would have a competitive advantage.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee is holding its second session on the matter at 2.30pm on Wednesday, having heard from Baroness Grey-Thompson, Michael Breen and the British Paralympic Committee at the end of October.
During that session, Grey-Thompson told the panel she had heard claims of cheating and intimidation during a duty of care review she conducted for the sports minister and Breen, the father of world T38 long jump champion Olivia Breen, made a series of allegations about British athletes gaming the system and the IPC failing to properly investigate.
Collins and his panel had been hoping to put those claims to the IPC directly but, in a letter published on the committee website, the IPC's chief executive Xavier Gonzalez explained the body could not attend as the session clashes with the World Para Swimming Championships and World Para Powerlifting Championships in Mexico City, which were rescheduled after September's earthquake.
Gonzalez's letter added on that the IPC did not believe the October hearing raised any issues it was not already working on, denied the classification system was broken and questioned why Breen kept raising doubts about the classifications of his daughters' rivals, despite IPC experts verifying them.
The IPC also sent a 42-point rebuttal of the claims made by Breen, and others, in October. This, though, is not good enough for Collins.
In a statement, the Conservative MP said: "The IPC's decision not to attend the committee in person is disappointing.
"Their written evidence leaves too many questions unanswered for the committee. An appearance would have given them an opportunity to offer a defence on matters raised by others in the inquiry.
"Our investigation goes much further than just the classification of Paralympic athletes. It's about getting to the bottom of why cases of mistreatment and a glaring lack of proper grievance procedures are being brought to the DCMS committee as opposed to their own governing bodies, time and time again."
'Para-sport cheating on the rise'
Cheating has increased in Paralympic sport since London 2012, Baroness Grey-Thompson told a Parlimentary committee
Collins' point about athletes feeling unable to lodge complaints about their own treatment, or raise concerns about others, has been repeatedly proven to be correct over the last 18 months in British elite sport.
The IPC's written testimony, however, is a robust defence of the classification system and raises valid questions about the headlines generated at that October DCMS committee hearing.
The document also accuses Breen of making "grossly unfair, unjust and unethical" allegations about leading British para-athletes, says "his facts are simply wrong" and claims he "does not have a proper understanding of the subject".
It is understood this view will be echoed by the two witnesses who are speaking to the panel of MPs on Wednesday: the former head coach of the British para-athletics squad Peter Eriksson and UK Athletics' deputy performance director Michael Cavendish.
It is also believed that Sophie Hahn, the Paralympic and five-time world champion sprinter named by Breen as an athlete in the wrong class, has also written to the DCMS panel to tell them how much distress that claim has caused her and her family.