Australia Implicated in Swimming Cheating Scandal

Photo: SwimSwam

BELCONNEN, ACT, Australia – Swimming Australia has been the latest organization pulled into the para swimming cheating scandal, with allegations of faking classification tests to get an ‘easier’ classification and thus more medals.

The revelation came through Australian public broadcaster the ABC with allegations made on The Ticket program. A number of swimmers and parents expressed concerns similar to those alleged in the United Kingdom with a recent parliamentary enquiry.

Australian swimming coach Simon Watkins has coached at Paralympic level and spoke on the show about cheating, and how it is widespread, and a common discussion topic, although declined to name if it was happening in Australia. For its part Swimming Australia has responded, saying that cheating will not be tolerated.

One swimmer spoke about being coached to ‘enhance’ the impairment of disability before classification, using methods like exhaustion to make the impairment appear more serious. The accusations she made ventured into more serious territory including athletes not taking medication.

Another common trend in this sort of story continued in Australia, with threats toward those raising the concerns. In Australia It was threats of breaching classification rules, ironically, allegedly used to silence the critics, which led to turning to the ABC, and the International Paralympic Committee.

Swimming Australia’s response to these allegations was that cheating will not be tolerated, although stopped short of saying outright that swimmers and coaches would be banned.

“If we knew of the situation, and the coaches, we would respond immediately and extremely strongly,” said Swimming Australia CEO Mark Anderson.

In Australia winning more medals at the Paralympic Games results in more funding (despite the disparity in the number of events each sport is eligible to win). As a result swimming is the highest funded sport, and hence there may be an incentive for such schemes.

The allegations will no doubt be examined as part of the International Paralympic Committee review of swimming, but these allegations are not different to many other countries.


Russia Preparing for Paralympic Games Exclusion

Image: TASS

MOSCOW – On Monday the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) revealed that it will be announcing a decision on Russia’s participation at the 2018 Paralympic Games, but the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) responded, revealing a potential alternative should its suspension be upheld.

Speaking to the media the RPC President Vladimir Lukin hinted that an alternative competition, hosted by Russia, could be an option should the IPC maintain the RPC’s suspension next month. Despite that suggestion Lukin made it clear that the preferred option of the RPC is for the IPC to lift the suspension, allowing athletes to compete in PyeongChang in March.

“Alternative competitions? Let’s move on step by step. First we’ll wait and see if we participate in the Games or not, and then look around and decide what to do next,” said Lukin. “On the basis of that principle we develop the Paralympic movement not for the sake of a showoff once in four years, but for giving people a chance.”

The IPC decision is dated for the 16th so that it can come after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision on Russia. That decision will come on December 5th when the IOC Executive Board meets, notably Russia was banned from the 2016 Paralympic Games but not from the Olympic Games, so presumably an Olympic ban would solidify the IPC suspension.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had even stronger words stating that he would defend the interests of Russian athletes.

“The state will continue giving a priority to the development of the Paralympic sport and defending the interests of Russian athletes and teams at the highest international level,” said Putin.

What that defense looks like will become clear in the coming days, but things aren’t looking good for Russia with the IOC making moves believed to lead to a Russian ban.

Wheelchair Tennis Tour Completes With Bath Indoor Titles

Alfie Hewett celebrates his title (Photo: Tennis Foundation)

BATH, Eng., United Kingdom – The final wheelchair tennis tour event before the tour championship has been completed as both Alfie Hewett and Diede de Groot managed straight sets victories to claim the men’s and women’s singles titles on Saturday.

With the NEC Singles Wheelchair Masters coming up next week Hewett and de Groot have surely marked themselves as favourites for the major title.

Hewett was a convincing winner in the men’s singles final as he won 6-0 6-4 over Swede Stefan Olsson, the 2017 Wimbledon Champion. The win sees Hewett come into the season ending masters event with a world ranking of third, making him a strong contender for the title.

De Groot claims the women’s singles title with a simple 6-1, 6-2 victory over German world No. 4 Sabine Ellerbrock. The Dutchwoman than backed up well winning the women’s doubles final with British partner Lucy Shuker. The pair won the match 6-0, 7-5 with Ellerbrock also losing in that match with her partner Dutch Marjolein Buis, putting up a good fight in the second set but just couldn’t manage the win.

Following the loss in the men’s singles final, Olsson recovered well from that defeat, partnering with Belgian Joachim Gerard to win their second straight Bath Indoor title. The pair managed a tough win, claiming the title 7-6(2), 6-2, taking that momentum into the second set for the win.

In the quad tournaments, the singles was claimed by number one David Wagner with a surprise in the doubles as Brazilian Ymanitu Silva teamed up with South African

Russia Completes European Sitting Volleyball Championships Double

Photo: European Sitting Volleyball Championships

POREC, Croatia – Russia has completed a double title haul at the European Sitting Volleyball Championships managing two 3-0 wins to claim the men’s and women’s titles against Ukraine in Porec, Croatia on Saturday.

It was a comfortable victory in the men’s final as Russia cruised to the straight sets victory with a 25-18, 25-14, 25-17 match. It was a familiar pattern from the Russians with a strong attacking performance, getting 28 of their points from attacking kills.

Viktor Mikenin ended up winning the MVP award for the tournament following the match, leading the way with 17 points. He was one of three Russians in the match to manage double figured scoring in the big win.

The women’s title was done with even more comfort as Russia claimed its second straight sets victory over Ukraine in the day. The Russians claimed the simple victory 25-11, 25-14, 25-10 to complete the double titles day.

The Russian women’s team was even more attacking than the men, something that they had been all tournament, as they managed 41 points from attacking kills. Yet again Iuliia Mednikova led the way, with 16 points, helping her claim the tournament MVP award.

Women’s bronze medal match (Photo: European Sitting Volleyball Championships)

In the women’s bronze medal match, the Netherlands cruised to a 3-0 victory over Finland, winning 25-18, 25-16, 25-23. It was another attacking performance with the Dutch team managing 31 points from attacking kills with Karin van der Harr leading the way with 15 points.

There was another sweep in the men’s bronze medal match as Bosnia and Herzegovina managed a 25-21, 25-16, 25-18 win over Croatia. Despite making 16 errors, the Bosnian attack proved too much, managing 37 attacking points to win the match, spreading the scoring through 10 different players.

The men’s result ended nine straight titles for the Bosnians, having won every tournament since 1999. Both finalists win their way through to the 2018 World Championship, with the bronze medalists joining them, with the Netherlands claiming third in the women’s tournament having already qualified as the hosts, Finland claims the third spot for Europe.

Crimean Rivalry set for European Sitting Volleyball Championships Finals

Ukraine makes a block against Croatia (Photo: European Sitting Volleyball Championships)

POREC, Croatia – The European Sitting Volleyball Championships Finals will see Russia take on Ukraine in both the men’s and women’s finals following the semi-finals on Friday afternoon in Porec, Croatia.

Ukraine v Finland (Photo: European Sitting Volleyball Championships)

In the first women’s semi-final Ukraine made light work of Finland managing a 3-0 (17-25, 13-25, 16-25) win with a heavy victory in all three sets. Finland made 37 errors in the match with some good work from the Ukrainians making life hard for Finland.

The undoubted star from Ukraine in the match was Elina Bezprozvanna, the only player in the match managing double figure scoring with 18 points. 10 of those coming from attacks with the other eight coming as service winners.

Russia v Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo: European Sitting Volleyball Championships)

In the first men’s semi-final the Russians managed to advance, surviving a tough and entertaining match against Bosnia and Herzegovina, winning 3-2 (18-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-20, 12-15). Russia had to win the final two sets to claim the win and advance to the final.

It was errors that proved to be the big difference with the Bosnians making 55 of them, their strong attacking play keeping them in the match through five sets. Bosnia and Herzegovina actually lead the attacking game with 33 attack winners to 23 but couldn’t wrap up the win in the fourth set.

Russia relied on six players to do all the scoring with Aleksandr Savichev leading the way with 12 points, one ahead of Viktor Mikenin. But the highest scorer of the match was on the Bosnian side of the net with Safet Alibasic managing 18 points, half of them from blocks, one short of a rare double digit block count.

Russia v Netherlands (Photo: European Sitting Volleyball Championships)

Much like Ukraine in the first women’s semi-final Russia managed a comfortable 3-0 (25-19, 25-11, 25-12) win over the Netherlands to advance to the final. It was a strong attacking performance from the Russians who managed 35 attack winners in the match.

It was a strong all-round performance from the Russians but Iuliia Mednikova managed to stand out with 16 points to lead the way. Reflecting how attacking Russia’s play was 12 of those 16 points came from attacking kills as Russia cruised to the win.

Ukraine v Croatia (Photo: European Sitting Volleyball Championships)

The last semi-final saw Ukraine come from a set down to beat Croatia 3-1 (16-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-18) to advance to the men’s final. It was a dominant attacking performance which pushed Ukraine to the win with 40 points coming from attacks.

Denys Bytchenko led four Ukrainians into double figures, scoring all bar one of his 14 points from attacking plays. That put him well behind the leading scorer of the day, with Croatian Ivan Cosic pleasing the home fans with a whopping 22 points from his diverse play.

With that result both the men’s and women’s finals were set as Russia v Ukraine match ups for two thrilling matches on Saturday.

UK Parliament Hears About Cheating in Para Sport

An athlete going through classification (Photo: International Paralympic Committee)

LONDON, Eng., United Kingdom – Tuesday could turn out to be a monumental day in the history of British Para Sport as a Parliamentary Enquiry looking at sporting governance examined accusations of cheating in Para Sport.

A BBC investigation in September published claims of intentional cheating of the classification system to get athletes into a more favorable classification. Those allegations included tactics of taping up arms, and cold showers, to things as extreme as surgery, shortening limbs to ‘improve’ classification.

Nothing has been proven by the BBC investigation, and these allegations were nothing new, with World Para Swimming holding an investigation into classification cheating before the BBC investigation. That lead to changes in the way swimmers are classified, a procedure which is still being investigated. Just last week World Para Athletic announced a whole new classification set, to give a more level playing field for different types of athletes, a move that will likely limit any benefits from this classification cheating.

The main witnesses speaking against the current classification will be Paralympic gold medalist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Michael Breen, father of Paralympian Olivia Breen. That will be followed by Tim Hollingsworth, the CEO of the British Paralympic Association.

Notably in the aftermath of that BBC report, British T37 200m medalist Bethany Woodward returned a medal from a previous relay event, believing that she had an unfair advantage due to one of her team-mates.

Chelsey Gotell, chair of the IPC Athletes Council expressed her concerns with the process, empathizing with athletes, but showing concern for what could easily get out of hand. “While we appreciate that athletes may have concerns regarding classification – and we are working hard with the IPC to make the system more robust – it is important that athlete concerns are substantiated by factual evidence rather than hear-say, rumor or suspicion.”

The hearing will have little impact on global Para sport as the enquiry can only impact on British sport, but given Britain’s recent dominance in a number of sports that will have a significant impact if anything changes.

Morocco Claims 2017 African Blind Football Championship

Morocco IBSA Africa
Moroccan players celebrate their title (Photo: Morocco Blind Football)

PRAIA, Cape Verde – Morocco has defended its African Blind Football Championship managing a big 8-1 win against Mali to claim the continental championship yet again on Sunday afternoon.

It was a dominant win for the Moroccans which continued to be the strongest team in African Blind Football by some margin. Morocco just exploded in the match for its strongest win of the tournament, pacing itself well through the tournament before butting in its best performance in the final.

The third place match took place on Saturday afternoon with the home crowd being left disappointed as Egypt claimed the bronze medal with a 5-2 win over Cape Verde. The match just got away from Cape Verde in the second half, with the score at half time 2-2 following the first ever first half goals from Cape Vede, one coming from the spot. But from there Egypt took fire scoring three goals in the second half to claim third place, an encouraging win for the Egyptians.

Morocco was dominant through the group stage as it looked to defend its title with an undefeated record through the group stage. The Moroccans conceded just one goal during the group stage, winning all three matches by hefty margins, with Cape Verde making it tight with a 3-0 win for Morocco in the final group stage game.

Mali may have lost to Morocco in the group stages but went to the final with the most impressive goal difference after a pair of dominant wins against the two other teams in the group. Mali smashed Egypt 7-1 in the final group stage game to finish with a  goal difference of 16.

By making the final, both Mali and Morocco will qualify for the IBSA Blind Football Championship in 2018 as the African qualifiers, with Morocco looking for a strong performance again.