Statement by Wheelchair­ Basketball Athletes placed­ in the middle of­ governance – risk of­ losing eligibility for the Tokyo­ Paralympic Games

31.08.2020. The athletes of the following wheelchair basketball teams, qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, from 10 of 14 countries implore that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) reconsider its position and allow all formerly eligible athletes to compete through the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. We believe the IPC had ample time to take actions towards the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) over the past two years, which would have prevented these last-minute actions that are predominantly hurting the individual lives of athletes.

We understand the IWBF should have engaged in meaningful conversations sooner, working with the IPC to ensure wheelchair basketball and all its athletes compete in Tokyo. At this point we believe it is up to the IPC to show compassion and understanding for the dedication that these innocent athletes have put into representing their countries and the Paralympic movement.

Athletes are being used as pawns in a governance dispute between the IPC and IWBF. Teams have rightfully qualified, with athletes following current classification requirements for our sport and are preparing for the 2020 Paralympic Games. We urge the IPC and IWBF to work together in order to find a solution where all athletes who have become part of the fabric of our sport, helping grow our game to the place it is today, be able to participate in the upcoming Games.

“This entire situation is against the fundamental rights of athletes to compete and is an example of the backward state of sport governance. As leaders of sport, you have a duty to step in to uphold the rights and welfare of athletes.” said Bo Hedges, captain and athletes’ representative of the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team.

“As athletes we hold both, the IPC and the IWBF, responsible for not addressing and resolving these issues sooner. The timelines given, including an appeal process up to seven months from now and phase two having impact likely until July 2021 with such appeal requests, are an unbelievable hardship for the impacted athletes but also all athletes on their teams left in the unknown so shortly before the competitions. We ask that the IPC consider our requests to allow all athletes to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Games because their lack of foresight has all athletes in a state of confusion, wrongfully leaving their prospects of competing at the Games in question.” Said Mareike Miller, captain and athletes’ representative of the German women’s wheelchair basketball national team.

We are all in the final stages of team preparation, selection and cohesion leading into the 2020 Paralympic Games. To add this extra work and stress not only on athletes but onto their National Sport Organizations, stretches limited resources thin when everyone should be focusing on preparation. At this point taking away athletes’ ability to compete in Tokyo after they have been preparing for months, years and decades is heartbreaking.

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Athletes of the Australian women’s national team

Athletes of the Australian men’s national team

Athletes of the Canadian men’s national team

Athletes of the Canadian women’s national team

Athletes of the Colombian men’s national team

Athletes of the Dutch women’s national team

Athletes of the GB women’s national team

Athletes of the GB men’s national team

Athletes of the German men’s national team

Athletes of the German women’s national team

Athletes of the Korean men’s national team

Athletes of the Spanish women’s national team

Athletes of the Spanish men’s national team

Athletes of the Turkish men’s national team

Darlene Hunter, Josie Aslakson, Kaitlyn Eaton, Rose Hollerman, Alejandra Ibanez, Courtney Ryan, Natalie Schneider, Lindsey Zurbrugg, Megan Blunk, Bailey Moody

Steve Serio, Matt Scott, Mikey Paye, John Boie, Fabian Romo, Nate Hinze, Brian Bell, Trevon Jenifer, Jorge Sánchez, Ryan Neiswender, Jorge Salazar, Matt Lesperance, Josh Turek

Stellungnahme-der-Rollstuhlbasketballer_innen-Tokio-2020

Reinstatement of all­ Wheelchair Basketball­ Athletes for the 2020­ Tokyo Games


Berlin, 24.08.20. Athlete groups demand that the International Paralympic Committee and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation reinstate all Wheelchair Basketball Athletes who rightfully qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Berlin, 24.08.20. Athlete groups have taken notice of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) decision to change athlete classification rules at the end of a Paralympic cycle, resulting in a direct and drastic impact on athletes. These athletes have sacrificed and worked tirelessly for years to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games. They had been assessed by the IWBF and found to be eligible for participation in IWBF competitions.   

The unilateral decision made by the IPC to remove players from their teams who rightfully qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is illegal and violates the athlete’s fundamental rights.

The IPC is not legally permitted to exclude individual athletes who have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Games and whose eligibility under the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation’s (IWBF) classification rules has not been formally contested. Further, the IPC is not legally permitted to exclude Wheelchair Basketball from the Tokyo Paralympic Games in its entirety so shortly before the beginning of the event.

The IPC has demanded changes from the IWBF. However, the IPC has not exercised the option to suspend the IWBF nor to manage the sport on an interim basis. Instead, Wheelchair Basketball players are being placed in the middle of a governance dispute between the IPC and the IWBF. The fact that the IPC has made this unilateral heavy-handed decision without athlete consultation is another reason why effective and independent athlete representation for matters of the IWBF and the IPC is so important.

A broad consensus exists among athletes and legal advisors internationally that the belated reassessment of certain players is unlawful and grossly violates the athletes’ rights. Thus, the IPC’s attempts need to be vigorously opposed, and the issue must be resolved expeditiously.

A letter has been sent directly to the IPC requesting amicable resolution – to agree to a transitional period ahead of Tokyo 2020 -, by no later than September 7, 2020.

20200824_Open_Letter_to_the_IPC_Wheelchair_Basketball

Maximilian Klein
Beauftragter für­ Internationale­ Sportpolitik und ­Organizing
m.klein@athleten-deutschland.org