Mencap has called for the ban on athletes with a learning disability from competing at the Paralympics to be lifted ahead of the start of this year's games in Beijing next week.
People with learning disabilities were first barred after the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney when it was discovered that members of the Spanish basketball team had falsely claimed to have a learning disability. Thousands of pounds of lottery funding for athletes in the UK has since been lost.
A decision on whether to overturn the ban will be made by the International Paralympic Committee after the Beijing games closes, on 17 September.
Mencap chief executive Jo Williams said it would be a “terrible disgrace” if athletes with learning disabilities were not allowed to compete in the 2012 London games and called on the government to reinstate lottery funding.
Williams added that many athletes had become disillusioned and were dropping out of sport altogether. Chris Pugh, who competed at Sydney 2000 and who currently holds two world records in swimming events, said he now no longer trains after being told that he was barred from competing in Beijing.
The International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability was responsible for monitoring eligibility of athletes for the Paralympics before being suspended in 2001. The IPC said that the verification process had been “grossly mismanaged” and that fair competition could not be ensured until the organisation got its act together.
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