Wheelchair basketball faces exclusion from Paralympics

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              FILE - In this June 11, 2019, file photo, the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics on display in Tokyo.  Wheelchair basketball was removed from the 2024 Paralympic program on Friday Jan. 31, 2020, and could be cut from the upcoming Tokyo Games as well, as the International Paralympic Committee and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation are in a dispute about how players are graded. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
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BONN, Germany (AP) — Wheelchair basketball was removed from the 2024 Paralympics program on Friday, and could be cut from the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics as well.

The International Paralympic Committee and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation are in a dispute about how players are graded and which ones should be eligible to compete.

The sport is open to a wide range of disabled athletes with rules requiring teams to include people with impairments of different severity.

The IPC wants to reassess some wheelchair basketball players hoping to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics and block any it considers ineligible. The 2024 Paralympic Games will be in Paris, and the ruling could still be reversed.

“We appreciate that wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Games, but this does not mean that the IWBF is above the rules,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement. “Athlete classification is integral to all Paralympic sport and the failure of any sport to comply with the IPC Athlete Classification Code is of critical concern to us because it could threaten the integrity of competition.”

The IWBF said it wants to reach a deal with the IPC before the Tokyo Paralympics and played down the differences between the two organizations.

“It is important to stress the eligibility of our athletes is not in doubt, merely we use different languages in our classification,” said Regina Costa, who chairs the IWBF classification commission.

The IPC said that IWBF rules allow some athletes who wouldn’t be eligible for other Paralympic sports. IPC spokesman Craig Spence told The Associated Press that 50 to 75 athletes worldwide with certain types of impairment might have to be reassessed.

The United States is the defending champion in the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball events.