Derek Malone spoke last night of his "bitter disappointment" after being told he would not be allowed to compete at the Beijing Paralympic Games because he was not sufficiently disabled to compete.
Malone, who won bronze in the 800m at the 2004 Athens games, was told after Ireland's loss to Iran that he didn't demonstrate enough obvious impairment of function. Understandably Malone is deeply upset at the decision in Beijing.
Malone, who suffers from cerebral palsy and has competed at three Paralympic Games, is said to be devastated at the decision. The Paralympic Council of Ireland has described the decision as shocking and unfair, and they claim that this ruling throws the whole ethos of Paralympic sport into question.
The CPISRA (Cerebral Palsy International and Recreation Association) made their ruling after observing Derek play for Ireland against Iran in Football 7-a-side. The judging panel consists of a doctor, physio, and sports technician, and they found that Malone did not meet the minimum disability required to compete at this level.
The controversial ruling has sparked unrest at the games, with the PCI offering Malone their full support. But Malone's biggest supporters come from the other nations competing at the games, with five of the seven teams competing for gold signing a petition to have Malone re-instated.
Participants from Brazil, Ukraine and Holland are all said to be enraged with the decision and are leading the claims for Malone to return.
Cerebral Palsy is an impairment resulting from an injury to the developing brain. It is irreversible and cannot be cured. However, in recent times doctors believe that high levels of training can bring the impairment under some kind of control. CP is a degenerative disease, so with training, people could get better or worse. The elite athletes are graded regularly.
Liam Harbison, of the PCI, said of today, "As a model athlete, Derek has committed himself to the Paralympic ideal over 12 years. He has focused on ability rather than disability by dedicating himself to training. We feel he has become the victim of a flawed rule book that hasn't kept the pace with modern time."
It's a sad indication of the world we live in if he is not reinstated. Sport is about pushing your limits. How can you have a system that penalises athletes for training hard?