December 30 - British academics are working to create a computerised testing system to help classify athletes with an intellectual disability (ID) in time for the London 2012 Paralympics, it has been revealed.
London will be the first time athletes with an ID have been allowed to compete at an international multi-disability sports event since the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.
Loughborough University researchers led by Dr Stephan Bandelow have so far developed an automated touch screen test.
They are currently working with sports scientists in analysing data taken from 700 athletes who used the system during competition and training.
The comprehensive computerised programme is being developed by Bandelow and colleagues in the Applied Cognitive Research Centre, part of Loughborough's School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS), and was a key element in the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) decision last month to consider the re-inclusion of ID athletes to the Paralympic Games, it has been claimed.
Bandelow (pictured) said: "The programme tests reaction times, reasoning abilities, memory and concentration and is designed to measure problems with information processing that are prevalent amongst individuals with a learning disability.
"We also aim to develop sport-specific testing for sports including athletics, swimming and table tennis, based on the cognitive demands associated with each discipline."
Medical records, IQ tests and in-competition assessments in addition to psychometric testing will also be used as part of the developing process.
The category for ID athletes was dropped after controversy at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney when Spain were stripped of their basketball gold medals shortly after the Games closed when Carlos Ribagorda, a member of the victorious team and an undercover journalist, revealed to the Spanish business magazine Capital that most of his colleagues had not undergone medical tests to ensure that they had a disability.
The IPC investigated the claims and found that required mental tests, which should show that competitors have an IQ no more than 70, were not conducted by the Spanish Paralympic Committee (CPE).
The IPC announced in 2003 that, due to serious difficulties in determining the eligibility of athletes, it was suspending all official sporting activities involving an intellectual disability and the category was dropped from the 2004 Athens Paralympics and also did not appear in Beijing last year.
Bandelow said: "Today’s achievement is the outcome of a unique and excellent co-operation between sports governance and the scientific community.
"I want to thank all parties involved, especially the scientists, for their contribution and commitment over the last two years."
December 2009: ID athletes must wait until next year to find out funding level
November 2009: Mencap warn British ID athletes could fail at London 2012 unless funded
November 2009: ID athletes re-admitted for London 2012
November 2009: Lane confident on re-inclusion of ID athletes for London 2012
November 2009: Decision on athletes with intellectual disabilities for London 2012 due soon