The tail is wagging the dog: body culture, classification and the paralympic movement

2014-09-26T13:35:52Z (GMT) by David Howe
The rules and regulations regarding the classification process through which athletes must be vetted to determine eligibility for Paralympic competition have been transformed drastically over the last two decades. A complex classification system initially developed by the International Organizations of Sport for the Disabled (IOSD) has been the distinctive feature of the Paralympic movement over this period. Key consideration must be given to the equitable nature of any classification system imposed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in order to comply with the ideology of Paralympism. Paralympism is manifest in the dictum of the Paralympic movement: ‘empower, inspire and achieve’. Using ethnographic data obtained by the author while a Paralympic athlete and journalist, this article explores recent debates within the sport of athletics surrounding classification. This is achieved by highlighting the process of classification and how, as a result of this process, some bodies are celebrated and others are not within a sporting culture established as a ghetto for imperfection.