30 January 2001

Sweeping 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.

Last updated 2 December 2001.