"We know who is a cheat and who is not. But what can you do?”: Athletes’ Perspectives on Classification in Visually Impaired Sport

Benjamin Powis, Jess Macbeth

    Research output: Published contribution to conferencePaper


    Classification in disability sport, an issue mired in controversy, is currently facing unprecedented levels of public scrutiny. Evidence presented at the recent Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee in the UK revealed claims of athletes exaggerating their impairment in order to gain an unfair advantage. Whilst the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) continues to defend international and national classification systems and processes (IPC, 2017), other stakeholders suggest they are not fit for purpose. This is not just a Paralympic issue; the controversy of classification pervades disability sport at all levels. Using an embodied approach to disability sport this paper reveals how classification is experienced and regarded by visually impaired football and cricket players. The paper presents findings from two qualitative research projects: one with the England Cricket Team between 2014-2016 and one with both grassroots and elite footballers in 2017. Our research reveals significant commonalities in the players’ experiences of classification, including: visual impairment classes as social identifiers; a lack of faith in a classification system which does not adequately capture the diverse and unstable nature of visual impairment; suspicion and rumour about players misrepresenting their impairment to gain an advantage. The experiences of these visually impaired athletes adds an important perspective and original contribution to the current literature on classification which, until now, has focussed entirely on the Paralympic context. International Paralympic Committee (2017) Evidence Session - Paralympic Classification: UK House of Commons – Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee. Bonn, Germany. Available at: <https://www.paralympic.org/sites/default/files/document/171031083233121_2017_10_27%2BDCMS%2BSelect%2BCommittee%2Bon%2BParalympic%2BClassification.pdf>.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
    EventQualitative Research in Sport and Exercise - UBC, Vancouver, Canada
    Duration: 6 Jun 20188 Jun 2018


    ConferenceQualitative Research in Sport and Exercise


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