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Scheming officials eyeing paralympic slots

Several athletes with disabilities will miss the Commonwealth Games after failing to get classification from the International Paralympic Committee.

According to the rules, the paralympians can only compete at the Games after being grouped in specific categories. This could lock out up to 22 athletes from the championship slated for Scotland from July 23 to August 3.

National Olympics Committee Kenya (Nock) secretary general Francis K Paul said in an interview that the travelling party was trimmed drastically since a number of athletes didn’t merit inclusion.

Foul play

“Classification is usually done by the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) at an event sanctioned by the international paralympics governing body, IPC. Alternatively, an IPC official could come to Kenya and classify the athletes.

There is nothing much that Nock can do now, except to work with the group that has already been classified. The first batch to travel to Scotland will have 11 people who include participants and their coaches,” said Paul.

Players are not amused about missing out on the Games, claiming there was foul play on the part of NPC.

“They knew about the classification in good time but did nothing to ensure we merit the Games. There was classification done in Kampala last month but the officials did not inform us. Some of us would have made our own arrangements and travelled, as well as meeting other expenses,” said one athlete.

He claimed some NPC officials were planning to fix joyriders in slots meant for athletes for them to receive allowances and other benefits that come with the trip.

“This is a repeat of the 2012 London Olympic Games, where only 14 athletes travelled to the United Kingdom and ironically – 17 officials. Just before the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, the entire swimming squad was dropped from the Kenyan team. This time round, several power lifters and runners will miss out on the championship because of selfish officials,” said the aggrieved athlete.

Affected athletes believed that the postponement of the Great Lakes Paralympics Games until after the Commonwealth Games was by design. If it had been done as scheduled, more athletes would have been classified.

 Feign ignorance

“Let no one feign ignorance on this. The explanation we are receiving from the national paralympics officials is not convincing. There was no reason to postpone the Great Lakes event. We have people who wanted to take part in swimming, wheel chair races, cycling, bowling and weight lifting and their classification could have been done at that championship,” said the source.

The National Paralympic Committee is locked in a leadership row in a battle over control of the federation that has since been taken to court. One faction, led by Jairus Mugalo, and has sued the other headed by Agnes Oluoch.

According to secretary general of the Mugalo group, Ronald Milare, the right procedures were not followed during the elections held last month.

“We cannot say much as the matter is in court, but the right channel was not followed and therefore, we do not recognise those who purport to have been voted in as the new office bearers,” said  Milare.

He said they moved to court only after an appeal to the Ministry of Sports to intervene did not bear fruit.

Oluoch, however, maintains that they followed the right channels and the court would vindicate them when it makes a ruling on May 15.

The court battle has made the situation more difficult for the athletes, as both factions are issuing conflicting directives.

Milare, who was in office at the time of the Kampala classification, has denied any foul play, saying they were in the dark over the championship.

“I am not aware of any classification done Kampala, and apart from that, we would not have had participants for some disciplines. There was nothing sinister about cutting down of numbers,” said Milare. The bitter athletes would hear none of that are threatening to sue NPC.

“Previously, we kept quiet about the injustices committed by the Paralympics committee but we are fed up and are planning to form an athletes’ body to fight for our rights. This is the right time to take action because we are not satisfied with the treatment we are receiving. There is a general feeling that there is unwillingness to resolve our issues. We shall seek legal redress for justice to prevail,” said the athlete.

The athletes are disappointed that in spite of using their resources their hope of taking part in the Commonwealth Games hangs in the balance.