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Sweeping Ban for Intellectually Disabled Athletes Unfair

Commission Commission – General

30 January 2001

Ban for Intellectually Disabled Athletes Unfair,
says Disability Discrimination Commissioner

Australia's Disability
Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski, has expressed shock and
disappointment at the International Paralympic Committee's decision to
suspend all athletes with intellectual disabilities in response to allegations
of fraudulent participation in the Spanish team by non-disabled athletes.

Dr Ozdowski said
it was obvious that action to protect the integrity of the Paralympics
was needed, but questioned why the committee decided to impose such a
sweeping ban.

"When members of
the Romanian weightlifting team were caught cheating, the International
Olympic Committee didn't suspend all weightlifters, or all Romanian athletes
- just the Romanian weightlifting team," he said.

"When Hansie Cronje
was caught taking money to fix cricket matches, we didn't see every other
international cricketer suspended with him."

"If this decision
stands it will punish innocent athletes with intellectual disabilities
for the actions of a few cheats who do not have a disability."

Dr Ozdowski said
it was particularly sad to see such a sweeping exclusion decided on so
soon after the Sydney Paralympic Games had provided such a great opportunity
to highlight the abilities of people with disabilities and the benefits
of an inclusive society.

"Would the Sydney
Paralympics have been the same without Siobhan Paton, for example?" Dr
Ozdowski asked. "Once she was teased at school for her disabilities, now
she is a role model for achievement with a bag full of gold medals."

"The International
Paralympic Committee needs to move quickly to find a fairer means of keeping
cheats out and letting real Paralympians compete," he said.

Media contact:
Janine MacDonald (02) 9284 9880 or 0412 783 631.

updated 2 December 2001.