Second Paralympian says she was stopped from racing Tanni Grey-Thompson

first_img Read more Paralympics Share on Messenger Highlighting the Duty of Care report which made recommendations for improving the welfare and duty of care for those engaged in sport, he accused Grey-Thompson of a “double standard”.He also condemned her husband, Ian Thompson, who has admitted raising concerns about Wafula Strike’s classification in 2006.Wafula Strike, who is paralysed from the chest down after contracting polio at the age of two, competed in the same T53 category as Grey-Thompson in 2006 and was edging closer to the champion’s times.However, after Thompson suggested she be reassessed, Wafula Strike was reclassified into a more able-bodied category, despite her medical records going missing before the test.It is not clear whether Thompson’s intervention was the only trigger for the reassessment.Wafula Strike said she was moved out of T53 wheelchair racing after a 2006 complaint made about her by Grey-Thompson’s husband. Lewis says she was told that Grey-Thompson would be her representative because a more independent official was unable to attend. Speaking to the Guardian ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, Lewis, 53, said: “I was shocked and devastated. How could a competing athlete be on the selection panel?”She said she believed the selection process before Atlanta was “highly unethical”.Lewis told the Guardian she believed that she and another athlete competing with her and Grey-Thompson at the time – Rose Hill – posed a huge threat to Grey-Thompson. “I don’t know what happened to Rose Hill but she also left the sport. Rose and I would have given Tanni a run for her money.” The international governing body for the sport, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), has declined two invitations to give evidence to the committee, a move condemned by the committee chair, Damian Collins.He said: “The IPC’s decision not to attend the committee in person is disappointing. Their written evidence leaves too many questions unanswered for the committee. An appearance would have given them an opportunity to offer a defence on matters raised by others in the inquiry.“Our investigation goes much further than just the classification of Paralympic athletes. It’s about getting to the bottom of why cases of mistreatment and a glaring lack of proper grievance procedures are being brought to the DCMS committee, as opposed to their own governing bodies, time and time again.”An IPC spokesman said Wednesday’s hearing coincided with major sporting events and that the first hearing did not reveal any new issues or highlight areas for improvement “that we were not already aware of or working hard on”.“In our view, the Paralympic classification system is fit for purpose, however improvements can and will be made by the IPC to make the system more robust for all athletes,” he said. “We openly acknowledge that the processes whereby people can raise issues about classification on a domestic and international level do need to be improved and work is already under way in this area.”The IPC spokesman said the organisation was currently working on a whistleblower policy.Becky Bailey, national classifier for para-badminton, also submitted written evidence. She said that while classification was well managed, she did have concerns about the behaviour of a minority of athletes.“It has happened that a small minority of players tell us they cannot jump or hop or perform a variety of tasks when asked to initially, yet go on to demonstrate this clearly during competition.”Grey-Thompson said: “In regards to 1996 Games, the BWRA had to send a representative. The BWRA was run by disabled people and many athletes who were involved were also up for selection. “I went to represent wheelchair racing as the competent person with the least conflict – as the world record holder and world champion my selection was already widely seen as being secure.“I, and the BWRA, were aware of a potential conflict of interest and raised this prior to the meeting and as is common in these circumstances I declared an interest where appropriate in the meeting. Other people also declared an interest when they had a conflict – for example, if they were a personal coach of an individual athlete.“I asked to be removed from part of the selection process and was told that it wasn’t possible. For the 1996 Games, the athletics team had 60 places available to select, and there were at least 120 athletes who had gained qualifying times.” • This article was amended on 8 December 2017. Due to an editing error, a few references to the surnames Grey-Thompson and Thompson were confused. Topics A second Paralympic athlete has told MPs she was denied the chance to race when she was a direct rival to Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson.In written evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport committee (DCMS), Tracy Lewis said she was not selected for the 1996 Paralympic Games after a selectors’ meeting attended by Grey-Thompson as the representative for the British Wheelchair Racing Association (BWRA) and its athletes.Ahead of the 1996 Paralympics, Lewis was ranked among the fastest in the world in the T53 100m, with a time that would have won a bronze medal in Atlanta that summer.Lewis did not name Grey-Thompson in her statement to the DCMS, only referring to her as “a direct rival”. Lewis complained she was a victim of unethical practice. Her complaints follow those of Anne Wafula Strike who said she had the best years of her career taken away from her when she was moved out of Grey-Thompson’s T53 category. Testifying via videolink from Canada against the 11-time Paralympic champion Grey-Thompson, Peter Eriksson, the former head coach at UK Athletics, said she was “the only one who benefited” from the category changes of rival athletes Wafula Strike and Lewis.“Tanni Grey-Thompson has benefited herself from making sure other athletes got out of her class,” he said. Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. 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