UK Athletics has today published in full, its review into the classification of para athletes.
The review panel was chaired by Anne Wafula-Strike and included John Brewer – Head of the School of Sport, Health and Applied Science at St Mary’s University and Iain Gowans of the British Paralympic Association as independent panel members, and Peter Taylor of the UK Athletics board.
The review, which was undertaken from November 2016 to February 2017, sought to ensure that UKA’s processes were fully compliant with World Para Athletics (WPA) regulations; and robust in how procedures were understood, documented and consistently followed.
It was also within the review’s terms of reference to identify whether there was evidence to suggest manipulation of the classification system, and finally if UKA was on course to meet the objective of ensuring every British athlete has a classification fully supported by full medical documentation.
Amongst the recommendations made by the review were increases in access to independent expertise to support the system, from the appointment of a panel of independent clinicians to support the classification process, as well as an independent oversight committee, separate from UKA, to manage the national protest and appeal process.
It was also recommended that communications around classifications processes were increased in order to provide clarification relating to differing codes (UKA and World Para Athletics – WPA), ensuring athletes are fully briefed on the rationale of the class allocated; as well as classification workshops and an improved on line resource that was clear and accessible in order to communicate key information such as rule changes.
The full report was submitted to the UKA board for approval on 28 February. The recommendations were accepted in full and will be implemented over time by UKA.
Anne Wafula-Strike said:
“Ahead of the biggest international competition at London 2017 this summer, and heading toward the 2020 Paralympic games in Tokyo we want to ensure that elite Para Athletics is absolutely fair, transparent and accountable so that para athletes have confidence in the processes surrounding classification. As a Paralympian, I am determined that the sport I love so much continues to provide opportunity for all disabled athletes who compete.
“The panel members involved are positive that the recommendations will strengthen the existing classification system and procedures. We believe that these recommendations, accepted by the board of UKA, will mean that they are leading the way in ensuring that para athletics, as it continues to evolve and grow, is robust for the rest of this decade and going into the next one.
John Brewer said:
“The Panel were made very aware of the complexities involved in the classification process, and were impressed with the rigour and manner in which the national classification of existing and aspiring athletes is undertaken. We are also aware that athletes are in a constant state of change, either as a result of their training or, in the case of some athletes, as a result of their disability.
“Consequently, many of the recommendations we have made will, we believe, allow the process in the future to be more flexible, responsive to change and – if appropriate – open to challenge and closer review”
Ed Warner, Chair of UK Athletics said:
“The board wishes to thank the panel for its work on this review and the thorough manner of its approach. We are also indebted to everyone from across para athletics in the UK who contributed their views to the panel.
“As Chair of UKA I am satisfied that the current domestic classification system is deemed to be robust and indeed is cited as one that is an exemplar. But we do not shy away from the indicated areas for improvement that would further enhance the UKA classification process and will work to ensure that the recommendations of the panel are implemented in full.
“Para athletics remains a comparatively young sport in which performances are improving rapidly and the nuances of classification are not always well understood, even by those close to the sport. The World Para Athletics Championships in London this summer present an opportunity to improve this level of understanding and this review is an important element in that process.”