COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF), in the first half of 2020, has been working towards compliance with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athlete Classification Code. The IWBF recently released its first set of decisions for Phase 1 eligibility of the Reassessment Process. The IWBF, as an independent Federation from the IPC, has always had its own eligibility philosophy, classification regulations and policies until the mandated alignment with IPC early this year. Each organization has issued statements clarifying the onset of their discussions and the chronology, neither of which is the subject of this communication.
To date The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) has followed the IWBF’s eligibility criteria for both domestic and international competition. The NWBA will continue to adhere to the existing IWBF eligibility criteria and classification procedures for the NWBA High Performance Programs (National Teams and Paralympic Teams) as the IWBF becomes compliant with the IPC Athlete Classification Code. The NWBA has been working with the pool of athletes in the NWBA High Performance Program on each phase of the IWBF’s Reassessment Process.
The NWBA will continue to monitor the progress of each phase of the IWBF Reassessment Process and support our athletes throughout. The completion date for all phases of the IWBF Reassessment Process have been delayed due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the IWBF hopes to conclude this process by December 2020. This delayed timeline in establishing eligibility status with the IWBF, and the fact that the completion will occur mid-season, creates uncertainty for IWBF classified athletes (regardless of citizenship) competing in the NWBA.
Due to the unknown eligibility status of various athletes in the IWBF Reassessment Process, the NWBA will allow all athletes with a previous IWBF classification to compete in the 2020-2021 NWBA season under their current classification. This is a one-year extension of these athletes’ eligibility and classification status with the NWBA. NWBA leadership is committed to reviewing the organization’s classification policies in the coming months with an approach for the 2021-22 NWBA season and beyond.
The NWBA is an organization governed by its Membership, which means that NWBA Membership votes on Bylaws that define, among other items, eligibility standards to compete in our Association. By extending eligibility, we accomplish two very important outcomes: we allow the IWBF / IPC harmonization process to be fully completed and understood; and, we allow sufficient time for NWBA Membership to understand and evaluate options (AND VOTE) on how best to proceed, consistent with NWBA governance protocol.