The popular sport of wheelchair basketball is in danger of being removed from the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics over its failure to comply with mandated standards, the International Paralympic Committee announced Friday.
At issue is the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation's use of eligible impairment definitions that differ from the IPC's. The IWBF will have until May 29 to comply or risk missing out on Tokyo.
The federation's president, Ulf Mehrens, said his organization, while disappointed, would do its best to cooperate.
(Renshi Chokai of Japan competes in the Wheelchair Basketball vs South Korea on day four of the Asian Para Games on Oct. 10, 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.)[Getty/Kyodo]
The IPC also voted unanimously to drop wheelchair basketball from the 2024 Paris Paralympics unless the federation comes into compliance by Aug. 31, 2021.
Andrew Parsons, IPC president, said: "We appreciate that wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Games, but this does not mean that the IWBF is above the rules."
According to the IPC, any changes to eligible impairments must be approved by the IPC General Assembly.
"Athlete classification is integral to all Paralympic sport and the failure of any sport to comply with the IPC Athlete Classification Code is of critical concern to us because it could threaten the integrity of competition," Parsons said.
Of concern is the classification for basketball players with the most upper-body mobility, disability classes 4.0 and 4.5. The IPC said all athletes set to compete in Tokyo in those two classes must have their eligibility reassessed by May 29 or they will not be able to participate.
"We hope to have the collaboration and support from all our national federations as we do everything possible to serve our wheelchair basketball community and make sure wheelchair basketball secures it place in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and future Paralympic Games," Mehrens said on the IWBF website.
The federation also posted a comment from the organization's classification chair, Regina Costa, who criticized the IPC's language.
"We have been trying to work with IPC for a long time to adjust our regulations to ensure they meet the IPC Classification Code," Costa said. "So for IPC to insinuate that as a federation we have not done anything is incorrect."