Loughborough University has been commissioned to run a research project to establish new minimum impairment criteria (MIC), which would be incorporated into revised International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) rules to ensure compliance with the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athlete Classification Code.
Classification has been a key issue in wheelchair basketball.
The IPC announced in January that wheelchair basketball be removed from the Tokyo 2020 programme and that the sport had also lost its place at Paris 2024 "with immediate effect", but would be reinstated if the IWBF became "fully compliant" with the IPC Athlete Classification Code.
The IWBF had been found non-compliant with the 2015 IPC Athlete Classification Code and ordered to re-classify athletes ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The IWBF has said it has now partnered with British Wheelchair Basketball to commission Loughborough University to undertake a research project on new MIC.
The Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport at Loughborough University, which is renowned for their in Paralympic sport and classification, will lead on the research project to create a scientific evidence base for the new MIC.
IWBF secretary general Norbert Kucera said the project came as part of efforts to ensure it has fit-for-purpose classification rules, which comply with IPC regulations.
"Classification is the cornerstone of our sport and it is very important for us to ensure that the creation of the new minimum impairment criteria within our Classification Rules has been supported and underpinned by evidence-based research," Kucera said.
"IWBF is delighted to have been able to appoint the team at Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport to lead on this piece of work for us.
"I would like to thank British Wheelchair Basketball for not only assisting financially but also in establishing the connection with Loughborough University.
"Our aim is to ensure we have thorough and fit-for-purpose Classification Rules that are compliant with the IPC Athlete Classification Code and allows wheelchair basketball to remain part of the Paralympic movement."
The IWBF said each sport’s classification rules has a set of MIC which describe how severe an impairment must be for an athlete to be considered eligible to compete in their chosen sport.
The criteria are defined on the basis of scientific research, which assess the impact of impairments on the sport’s activities.
The governing body said as sports require different activities, the MIC are specific to each sport.
Professor Vicky Goosey-Tolfrey, director of the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport, hopes a consensus can be reached on the criteria to enable wheelchair basketball players to compete at Paris 2024.
"We have been monitoring closely the impact of the IPC Athlete Classification Code and MIC’s on wheelchair basketball’s inclusion at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games," Goosey-Tolfrey said.
"Barry Mason, Michael Hutchinson, and the rest of the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport have established an international reputation within para-sports classification over the past five years, and we’re delighted to join the IWBF in launching this project.
"We are also grateful for the support from British Wheelchair Basketball, whose extra funding helped get this project across the line.
"We hope that the international working group with members from the UK, Poland, Canada, and Switzerland can ensure that we navigate the path over the next six months with a remit to gain consensus on the MIC within wheelchair basketball so athletes can represent their countries in Paris and can perform at their very best."
British Wheelchair Basketball chief executive Lisa Pearce said the project showed the sport’s commitment to align with the IPC Classification Code.
"This project signifies a unified commitment by the international wheelchair basketball community to develop an eligibility framework which aligns to the IPC’s Classification Code and ensures the sports safe future as part of the Paralympic movement," Pearce said.
"British Wheelchair Basketball is proud to support the facilitation of this ground-breaking research project between Loughborough University and IWBF, and we are incredibly grateful to UK Sport and the National Lottery, without whose funding this would not have been possible.
"I believe this marks a hugely exciting next stage in this great sports journey; this project will see national federations working side-by-side to underpin and support IWBF and Loughborough University’s successful research into a new Minimal Impairment Criteria for wheelchair basketball."
The IWBF’s classification rules and MIC will reportedly be implemented in a transitional process.
This period would follow the conclusion of the research project and approval from the IPC.