Disabled athletes and their families have given evidence to MPs about widespread cheating within the Paralympic classification system.
The committee has been told of one swimmer whose father bought her a wheelchair on eBay to try to mislead the officials who would be classifying her – in a bid to compete against slower swimmers – while others took cold showers “to help stiffen their muscles” before they were examined.
The written and oral evidence has been submitted as part of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee’s inquiry into sports governance.
The classification system is run by the national governing body of each Paralympic sport, while athletes competing internationally also have to submit to testing by international classifiers.
The process includes medical evidence, physical examinations and assessment of how the athlete functions in that sport, as well as observation of them in competition.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) defines classification as grouping athletes into different classes according to how much their impairment “affects fundamental activities” in that sport and discipline.
But misleading classifiers – known as intentional misrepresentation – can allow athletes to compete against those whose impairments have a greater negative impact on attributes such as speed, coordination and strength.
Giving evidence in person to the committee this week, Michael Breen, the father of Paralympic athlete Olivia Breen, said he had been trying to raise concerns about the classification system since 2013.
He said he believed the system was “not fit for purpose” and that it needed a “root and branch review”.
Although he did not believe abuse was “absolutely widespread”, he said there was “a significant issue at the moment that needs to be addressed”.