IPC President Andrew Parsons called a recent IWBF statement "misleading" ©Getty Images

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has accused the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) of issuing a "misleading" statement regarding its non-compliance with classification rules. 

A dispute between the IWBF and the IPC regarding classification has been ongoing since January.

The IPC said that wheelchair basketball had not been complying with its classification rules and threatened the sport with removal from the Paralympic Games in Tokyo - postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic - if a May 29 deadline to implement an action plan was not met.

This was extended to August 1 because of the coronavirus crisis.

In June, the IWBF said it had released the first set of results from phase one of a classification eligibility reassessment process, with 75 per cent of 134 submitted players receiving decisions.

The IWBF claimed there had been no transition period for non-eligible players because the IPC had rejected such a request. 

"IPC did not grant IWBF’s request for a transitional period for players involved in phase one of the reassessment process," the IWBF said.

"IWBF is disappointed that the IPC considered it necessary to demand a review of eligibility for players so close to a Paralympic Games. 

"We believe this decision was made without taking into consideration the best interest of the players or teams’ preparation."

IPC President Andrew Parsons has criticised the IWBF statement, describing it as "entirely misleading".

"Ordinarily, the IPC would not comment on code compliance matters outside of the formal process set out under the code," he said. 

"However, the IPC Governing Board considers the IWBF’s statement to be entirely misleading and therefore feels compelled to provide members with the full facts and information on this matter."

Parsons continued by rejecting the idea that IWBF had been told to review player eligibility close to Tokyo 2020, claiming that the governing body had been warned of their non-compliance for "several years".

The IPC has threatened to remove wheelchair basketball from the Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 Paralympic Games ©Getty Images
The IPC has threatened to remove wheelchair basketball from the Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 Paralympic Games ©Getty Images

"It is simply incorrect to suggest that the IPC demanded a review of players’ eligibility close to a Paralympic Games," Parsons said.

"To the contrary, this matter was raised with the IWBF many years previously, and the IWBF had ample time and opportunity to address it well in advance of Tokyo. 

"The IWBF simply chose not to do so."

He also claimed that the IWBF request for a transition period had been "presented without any clear consideration, rationale, impact assessment, implementation plan or text for the provision itself, and with no apparent member consultation".

"It was in these circumstances, and following several years without progress, that the IWBF’s request was declined," Parsons said. 

"As was also expressed to the IWBF at the time, the IPC Governing Board (which includes six retired Para athletes, as well as the chair of the IPC Athletes’ Council) was and remains deeply frustrated by the IWBF’s conduct in respect of this matter. 

"In particular, had the IWBF presented the IPC with a timely, considered and comprehensive proposal and appropriate transition rule, the outcome may well have been different (as has been the case in other sports)."

The remaining 25 per cent of players are either still under review after further evidence was submitted, or are still pending as additional documents have not been received due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The first phase required all players in the 4.0 and 4.5 classes, from countries which have qualified for Tokyo 2020, to submit forms and medical evidence to verify that they have an eligible impairment.

Two-time Paralympic gold medallist David Eng was among those to be ruled ineligible after the review, with the Canadian announcing his international retirement soon after. 

Wheelchair basketball has also lost its place at Paris 2024 but this could be reversed if the IWBF becomes "fully compliant" with the IPC Athlete Classification Code by August 2021.