May 4 - Leading Dutch scientist Ivo Van Hilvoorde has claimed the Paralympic Movement is at "a crossroads" regarding technology and a lack of knowledge and research in the area will badly damage the credibility of disability sport if the issue is not properly addressed.
Van Hilvoorde, assistant professor at the Faulty of Human Movement Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, is considered one of the leading experts on technology in Paralympic sport.
Speaking on the final day of the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) VISTA 2013 conference in Bonn, he explained how technological innovation influences issues of classification and the perception of performances by disabled athletes.
"I believe the Paralympic Movement is at a crossroads where clear choices have to be made about the role and increasing dominance of technological innovation," he said.
"What is needed is a clear conceptual and sport ethical framework for evaluating and grounding choices about the implications of new technology, its relation to sport immanent classifications and its relation to the changing definitions of disability."
In his hour long keynote address to more than 200 sport scientists and researchers, classifiers, coaches, sports administrators and athletes, Van Hilvoorde highlighted that recent technological innovations in some Paralympics sports made success similar to Formula One.
"Performances are not just individual but group performances in which technicians, scientists and engineers play a legitimate and, in many cases, crucial role," he said.
"This means that differences in quality are also based upon differences in budget and expertise.
"Education and explanation about the role and impact of technology is necessary.
"Paralympic athletes still fight against several persistent stereotypes.
"I also noticed in conversations that there is distrust that outsiders would think that technology makes performances easer.
"New technology does not take over human abilities but demands more diversity of abilities, more strength, endurance, dexterity, agility, talent, as can be illustrated by the evolution of the wheelchair in sport."
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