The darkest day in the history of the Paralympic Games
This scandal had severe repercussions and tarnished the reputation of the Spanish Paralympic Committee and the Paralympic Games itself
The Paralympics is one of the most famous sporting extravaganzas on Earth. Not just because it is meant for sportspersons who are physically challenged but because it caters to several types of physical disabilities which come under 20 or more different types of sports. However, there are times when this can be surpassed in a bid to win a medal and compete with an unfair advantage. One such scandal that rocked the Paralympics was when the Spanish basketball team faked an intellectual disability to win gold at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.
The scandal came to light when a member of the team, Carlos Ribargoda broke the information to certain news channels that most of the team was not intellectually disabled. They were competing in the basketball event of the Paralympics while having no mental or physical problems. Ironically, this was the biggest violation of the Paralympics but had gone unnoticed as no testing was done on the Spanish basketball team. He also said that certain sportspersons in swimming and table tennis had no handicap at all. The number was 15 out of the total 200 who had represented Spain in Sydney 2000.
Spanish news house Marca had published a picture of the players celebrating on the court and it was this picture that led friends and relatives of the winning team to recognise those who had faked their disability. The basketball team only had 2 players with tested IQ's below 70. The other players managed to evade authorities with fake certificates that showed them with low IQ's and mental disabilities. It was even reported that the coach had told the team during a quarter break to tone down their game as they were leading by a big margin and could be discovered as faking their disability.
After the story came to light, the Spanish head of the Federation for Mentally handicapped Sports, Fernando Vicente came under the scanner for his involvement. He subsequently resigned but not before facing the wrath of several world and national sporting bodies. He was found guilty in 2013 by a Spanish court for the fraud of faking the participation of mentally abled players at the Paralympics. The fine was 5,400 euros for him and a total of 140,000 euros for the federation.
The players were punished with an order to return the medals and were banned from future competitions. The repercussion was that the category of 'intellectually disabled' would be removed from all future Paralympic events. It was truly an action that damaged the entire spirit of the Paralympics that had worked to eradicate any form of undue advantage and stigma associated with para-sports.