International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Presidential candidate Patrick Jarvis has spoken of his desire to continually develop the body’s Athlete Classification Code in a bid to address what he considers to be one of the biggest issues of concern for Para-athletes.
Jarvis was speaking to insidethegames on the sidelines of the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships here.
If elected President, the former Canadian Paralympic Committee head has committed to five areas of focus, including level playing fields, under the vision of "more is possible".
Effective implementation and monitoring of the IPC Athlete Classification Code, with a focus on continuous improvement, is one of the elements he believes "will improve confidence in our system".
Improving education about anti-doping to improve compliance and taking a clear stand against all corruption in sport are among the others.
Last month, the IPC launched a classification research grant scheme to facilitate its members to access funding for classification research.
It is claimed the grants will help to "develop sport-specific, evidence-based classification systems as defined in the 2015 IPC Athlete Classification Code".
Jarvis, the former athletics competitor and Barcelona 1992 Paralympian, says the issue of classification is an “ongoing evolution” and one he is keen to tackle.
"I’m not a fan of perfection but progress," he told insidethegames.
"Some very intelligent, very insightful, bright people worked on this great Classification Code, but now that we have it, it’s about applying what I would call a logic model - the plan, do, check, act.
"We’ve planned, we’re doing it, but now we need to check to see, as it has been implemented, is it appropriate and right?
"And I think that probably it’s one of the biggest concerns for the athletes because it is unique to our sport."
Last August, prior to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the IPC said they had found no evidence of intentional misrepresentation - where an athlete or governing body attempts to cheat the system by gaining a more favourable classification - in swimming after they conducted a "thorough examination" of 16 cases.
But earlier this year, a UK Athletics review into the classification of athletes revealed some concern that the system is "open to exploitation".
It identified several methods which could be used for intentional misrepresentation, including athletes with neurological conditions arriving at classification evaluations with prior fatigue.
Other ways highlighted were athletes altering their medical diagnostic form and/or supporting evidence prior to submitting it to UK Athletics and athletes presenting medical reports from doctors who are sympathetic to the athlete.
"Classification is all about Paralympic sport and Paralympic sport is all about classification," Jarvis, a three-term Governing Board
member of the IPC, added.
"So from an athlete’s perspective, when they step onto the deck of the pool, onto the pitch, onto the court, wherever they are, or on to a ski slope, do they have as much certainty as possible that it is a level-playing field?
"And it’s not just within the Olympic realm where it’s about anti-doping or technical doping, or even cheating in terms of gambling and what not."
Another one of Jarvis’ key areas of focus is strong partnerships, under which he speaks about strengthening the IPC’s relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and enhancing mutually-beneficial initiatives.
Relations between the two bodies have been strained in recent times after the two organisations opted to take a different course of action regarding Russia’s participation at Rio 2016, following doping allegations.
The IPC imposed a blanket ban on Russian athletes from competing at last year's Paralympic Games, while the IOC opted to defer decisions on Olympic participation to the respective International Federations.
The Russian Paralympic Committee remain suspended from the IPC.
Jarvis stresses though that he is not solely focused on repairing the relationship between the IPC and IOC.
In his manifesto, he also talks about formalising a system where National Paralympic Committees, International Federations, International Organisations of Sports for the Disabled, and the Regions "can all consistently and effectively engage with IPC leadership through both technology and formal membership working sessions".
"In one of my platforms I talk about relationships, but that’s across the board," he told insidethegames.
"We have a number of key relationships that we really need to nurture and make resilient.
"So one of the things I talk about is resilient relationships.
"There’s always an ebb and flow in any type of partnership and obviously the IOC is a key partner for us.
"So within that ebb and flow, as long as you have very clear communication lines, there’s that opportunity to be resilient when there are differences of opinion and I think that’s what we thought."
Jarvis' other areas of focus are putting sport first, increased capacity and robust governance.
"When I say more is possible, it’s really about how are we, in everything we undertake as an organisation, seen as being robust, fair and, transparent and progressive," he added.
"That’s what I would be looking for moving forward."
Jarvis is locked in a four-horse race to replace Sir Philip Craven as IPC President with Brazil's Andrew Parsons, China's Zhang Haidi and Denmark’s John Petersson.
Former wheelchair basketball player Sir Philip is not eligible to stand after serving as President since 2001.
Jarvis paid tribute to the man he is looking to succeed.
"The load that he has carried for 16 years, I’m quite astounded that an individual with that kind of expectation and demand can do that and I have a ton of respect for the fact that he has," he said.
"He always had instant credibility being a former athlete, being a wheelchair basketball player, but I think he has taken us a significant way and now there's perhaps a collective breath in the community to say what’s next?
"I think that there’s great opportunity to build on that legacy and the four that are running for Presidency all have their interpretation of how we build on that legacy."
The election is due to be held at the IPC General Assembly in Abu Dhabi on September 8.
Jarvis' manifesto can be viewed in full by clicking here.