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Wheelchair Basketball Star Considering Amputation To Fit New Eligibility Criteria

B
ritish wheelchair basketball star, George Bates, has said he may have to consider amputating his leg to continue playing the sport, after new disability criteria rules him out of eligibility.

The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) was under pressure to change its disability eligibility criteria to fit with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) rules, and at the start of the year, changed the classification rules to ensure wheelchair basketball could be competed at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Bates, who suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, meaning he has “constant pain every day for the last 15 years” after an injury when he was 11 years old, has now been labelled ineligible as the new classification code includes health conditions that “primarily cause pain” as one of its “non-eligible impairments”.

Bates said the rule change is a step away from equality and inclusivity, and that he would take legal action.

“It is ironic that the IPC, who attempt to base their brand around equality and inclusivity, are deliberately discriminating against athletes who don’t meed their narrowminded view of what it actually means to be disabled,” Bates said.

“This injury resulted in serious and prolonged mental health issues and left me in a position where I was contemplating if I wanted to carry on with this life.

“At this point… I was given the option to amputate my leg, an issue that I assumed would benefit me in later life.

“Due to the decision of the IPC today, I may be forced to revisit this heartbreaking option,” he said.

IWBF president, Ulf Mehrens, said the change in classification rules was difficult, as the federation believed it had a “strong robust classification system which has acted as a role model for other sports”.

“Despite our disappointment, IWBF acknowledges the current action by the IPC and I kindly request all athletes, teams and member nations for their cooperation and understanding,” Mehrens said.

“We hope to have the collaboration and support from all our national federations as we do everything possible to serve our wheelchair basketball community and make sure wheelchair basketball secures its place in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and future Paralympic Games,” he said.