Indian para-athlete challenged for 'misrepresenting disability' after gold medal
Para-athlete discus thrower Ajitkumar Panchal won the first gold medal for India at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships, but his disability has been challenged.
Indian para-athlete Ajitkumar Panchal won the first gold medal for India in F52 discus throw at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championship in Paris on Tuesday night. He also set a new Asian record and qualified for the 2024 Paris Paralympics with his feat.
However, there is trouble brewing. A protest has been lodged with the Board of Appeal of Classification (BAC) by Panchal's opponents that his disability does not correspond to the class in which he is competing - F52.
The president of the Latvian Paralympic Committee, Daiga Dadzīte, wrote on Facebook that the official result of Panchal winning gold needs to be taken in context because of the protest lodged against him. Latvian para-athlete Aigars Apinis provisionally won the silver medal. In case Panchal is disqualified, he will be upgraded to gold.
The post mentions that the protest has been lodged against the Indian becaue his disability allegedly does not correspond to this medical class. A total of five countries have filed protests against Panchal.
Notably, this is not the first time there has been an allegation on these lines against an Indian discus thrower competing in the F52 category.
Discus thrower Vinod Kumar lost his F-52 category bronze medal at the Tokyo Paralympics after being found ineligible in his disability classification assessment and was banned for two years for the intentional misrepresentation of his abilities during the Games.
How para-athletes are classified
Para-athletes are given a classification depending on the type and extent of their disability. The classification system allows athletes to compete against others with a similar level of ability.
In para athletics, participants are classified with the prefix 'T' (for track, marathon race or jumping event) or 'F' (for field event) with a number.
Classes are divided in terms of type (indicated by the first digit) and level of impairment. In general, the lower the second digit, the higher the level of impairment.
T/F51, T/F52, T/F53, T/F54, T/F55, T/F56 and T/F57 are for athletes with impaired muscle power, restricted range of movement, limb deficiency or leg length difference, with athletes competing in seated position, for example with cervical cord injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, functional disorder.
The 2023 World Para Athletics Championship is seeing around 1330 para-athletes from more than 100 countries fighting for medals and tickets to the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games. It will go on until July 17 in Paris, the home of next year's Paralympic Games.