Paralympics: People with learning disabilities may compete in 2012

Athletes with a learning disability look set to be re-included in the 2012 Paralympics after sports bodies agreed to develop new systems for testing their eligibility.

In a joint statement, the International Paralympics Committee and the International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability agreed to begin pilots early next year on processes that will allow their re-inclusion. Athletes with learning disabilities have been banned from competing in the Paralympics since members of the Spanish basketball team falsely claimed to have a learning disability at the Sydney 2000 games.

The committees pledged to work towards enabling athletes to train as early as possible and said they expected the move to be formally ratified in November 2009.

Learning disability charity Mencap, which has been campaigning to overturn the ban, welcomed the news. It is also calling on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to work with governing bodies to make funding immediately available for athletes to be fully trained to compete in London 2012.

Mencap’s chief executive, Jo Williams, said: “We are delighted by the announcement made by the IPC and INAS-FID on the progress made to lift the ban. However, there must now be immediate funding to make sure this happens and that as many sports are included as possible for athletes with a learning disability in future Paralympic games.”

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