Two Sides of The Fair Dinkum Coin When It Comes To The Classification of IPC Swimmers

Maddison Elliot, courtesy of Swimming Australia

Editorial: the process of classification in paralympic sport is onerous and difficult enough without making it a barrier to the achievements of athletes who compete against the odds and work hard to come up trumps

Want to read more? Our Basic subscription package allows you to access
to all articles barring specific content for Premium and Business
members. Select which service best suits you. Thank you for your
support of independent journalism and quality coverage of world-class swimming.

Log In Register

Editorial: the process of classification in paralympic sport is onerous and difficult enough without making it a barrier to the achievements of athletes who compete against the odds and work hard to come up trumps



I’d rather enjoy seeing Amy Van Dyken decide to take paralympic swimming seriously as part of her recovery because IPC classification has been kind of dodgy for a while now and I suspect that a few good performances from her in whatever they classify her at would cause an amusing amount of whining from people who have been trying to game the system to their own advantage for years.

Anthony Arne

what do your sources say about Freney? Is her absence legit or is she dodging reclassification. Just wondering why no international swims since 2012

Lea Knows

Until the classifiers are actual doctors like a neurologist or orthopedic for physical disabilities, the Paralympics is never going to be taken seriously. As it is a spectacle for politics. No country would dare protest a classification. However, there are behind the scenes politics taking place. Until real professional takes over classifications, the Paralympics will never be taken seriously.

Craig Lord

Illness/fatigue has been the reason for her absence this season, AA.I’m not familiar enough with the system of classification and how it all works (nor do I read any apparent knowledge on that anywhere else) to know whether and how taking 3 seasons out would help a swimmer ‘dodge’ anything but the competition…

Craig Lord

AA: Jackie Freney did actually race intl last year at the Brazil Open and went through the classification process, I’m informed.

Anthony Arne

good to know on Freney, I did find those result online but they arent in her australian time records. She just seems to be having a bad run of luck. On Madison I dont think the accusation should stick cause she came into the meet as the 100free WR holder so I don’t know how a classifier could be convinced she suddenly was a slower/weaker swimmer. She has a track record of 4 years so I put it back on the classifier to be familiar with the swimmer. I dont think anyone can protest after two tests done in short period of time it seems as though they have verified and reverified her at this point and a request for a third test would seem to be an abuse of the appeal process but thats only my opinion and I dont know why she was already selected twice this year for testing.


8 seconds over pb in the same stroke and distance to come last as S9 then 1 sec pb to win gold as S8? Please!! Didn’t she then pb in 100 fly as soon as she was reclassified back to S8 that evening? Wow!! What an amazing recovery! Elliotts S9 classification in Berlin was overturned on a technicality and it was correct that she enter World Championships as an S8 for review. Twice now Elliott has bench and water tested as an S9 (2 x 1 hour classification processes) so for the IPC to leave her as an S8 based on viewing a 90 second swim for Rio is a shocking lapse of judgement on their part. The IPC are well aware and have been for many years that people are questioning this swimmers classification – her enormous pbs at London 2012 as a 13 year old followed by World Records and World Champion at 14, Commonwealth Games Champion at 15 and world champion again at 16 – amazing achievement all on the back of 5-6 swim sessions per week. Sorry I don’t buy this performance as a ‘bad swim’. SAL also failed to mention that swimmers and coaches have raised concerns about Elliott over the years. Thank goodness this happened at World Championships as the IPC have lots of recordings of swims and medal ceremonies to wade through and they tell some interesting stories for sure of which I don’t think a swimmer having a bad day was one of them! Who wants to be more disabled than they actually are? That’s what I’m struggling with!


Very well said SBC!!!

As for freney, reports heard that she was watching in Glasgow but yet withdraws with chronic illness??! Why would you fly across the other side of world when not competing when suffering from a chronic Illness?! And also posts world leading times a few months before? Seems a bit fishy?!

A lot of people have been targeting maddie these championships but she wasn’t the only one that stood out!! GB’s super swimmer of the meet taking the limelight from Ellie Simmonds was Tully Kearney!! Now back at their trials in March she was reviewed as an S10. In the 400 free when she was being observed she went 4.56 and got moved to an S9 then at worlds she swam a 4.39 and broke the European record with a gold miles ahead of the field. Also in the 200IM went 2.39 when being observed and a 2.31 at worlds taking another European record and again miles ahead of the field!!

How can the IPC sit back and watch these swimmers blatenly fixed their classification!! Of course nations aren’t going to protest as you can guarantee it would back fire on at least one of their own swimmers!! Anyone should be allowed to put in a protest anomnously it’s crazy!! But unless someone does something about it medals and records are going to be smashed and taken away from swimmers who are truly placed in the right class!! In my eyes that’s as bad as drug cheating!! Why would anyone want to make them self seem more disabled than they are.. ?!! Until medically trained neurologists/orthopaedic doctors like how S11-13 swimmers get classified by a eye specialist at the hospital are used in classification then I can’t see classification ever changing!! Which is very sad!!
Sad to see Brian Loeffler has been removed from the pan pacs team for voicing his opinion on this too!! Shame on the U.S. For getting rid of a great passionate guy who was only speaking the truth!!

mattie m

Australian Swimmer Maddison Elliotts’ reclassification at IPC World Championships. I have a few points to get off my chest

The IPC have now had two weeks to review Elliott.

Two weeks should be sufficient time to review all her race and medal ceremony videos and the plethora of other documents Craig Spence stated they had received from outraged fans of Paralympic Swimming. A quick check on the Classification Master List though and Eliott, presumably by the skin of her teeth, remains S8 with review date 2017! In other words, the outcome from the S8 competition class for Rio 2016 has already been decided by the IPC. Appalling decision Dr Peter van de Vliet and it is a sad day Mr Gonzalez that you have accepted this from your leading sports scientists. This swimmer is no more S8 than I am! It is an all too obvious scam by Australian swimming.

The classing down of Elliott in first event and the classing up (to NE) of Silverman in the water test (both CP athletes) demonstrates the urgent requirement for the involvement of neurologists in classifying neurologically impaired swimmers. Anyone can resemble a go slow washing machine cycle in first event and ‘fool’ the classifiers but how did the classifiers deem Silverman ineligible by watching a sum total of 50m swimming and some floating?

It does seem that there is a general dissatisfaction regarding the classification system in its entirety. On the World Stage in Glasgow where one might have presumed a ‘best dressed’ approach by the IPC to impress and excite it’s rapidly growing supporters and viewers, it chose to present the ugly side of the sport by reclassing Elliott after an appalling swim. This may have gone unnoticed had Elliott not proceeded to dominate the S8 class and had she not been suspected of cheating by many for a few years now.

This ‘spectacle of incompetence’ by all involved in turn rekindled the furore at American Silverman’s classing out amid speculation that the Americans were being targeted by the IPC. Paranoia? Perhaps, but then along comes another Australian Harrison-Murray also a 400 free style swimmer. Harrison- Murray was classed in as S10 only weeks before Silverman was classed out. Nothing untoward there until you look closer at their impairments notably CP and club foot.

What then did the classifiers see in Silvermans not only ever present but dynamic impairment of cerebral palsy to deem him ineligible that they did not see in Harrison-Murrays no longer present so therefor not even static ‘impairment’ of an operated upon club foot? As a sports scientist, I find the classification comparison of these two young male middle distance freestylers teasingly exciting and in the pursuit of science would want to investigate further but hey, I’m not on the IPC’s payroll! Clearly, there is a glaring need to introduce a non volunteer Quality Control level.

I understand that the IPC depends on its volunteer classifiers. But therein lies the problem. I am assuming Peter van de Vliet is not a volunteer. IPC Swimming classification is currently just a shambles with political agendas and classifier lack of knowledge precluding a fair and equitable system. The IPC appear to have adopted a head in the sand approach, yielding to the bullying might of some NPCs whilst turning bully themselves to others.

I think it’s time that families, friends and supporters of para-swimmers put aside political and geographic boundaries and begin to network to push for change.

I believe Kearney is classified correctly and further Elliott should have competed as a S9. The addition of mild neuros in this class enhances the competition and would have ensured that athletes train properly as that is what we are expecting to see – trained, elite athletes. It shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the rule.

I now believe Elliott should be banned. As punishment for her and Australia’s behaviour but also as a stern warning to others that cheating won’t be tolerated. Failure to implement a ban will be catastrophic for an already faltering sport in terms of integrity and credibility.

mattie m

Lea Knows

Well said , SE about the classification spectacle of the IPC and The Paralympics. To make the 2016 games real. They should re-evaluate every athlete that to see if they pass the “new classification” one can bet that certain S10 swimmers from Brazil, Canada and The Ukraine would not pass the “new classification” testing. The whole thing is absurd. Understand Loeffler’s frustration, but his tweeting to a 16 year old girl was not professional and did put the US in a bad light.
The best way to get the point to the IPC is for the Sponsors to take away sponsorship. If more voices go to the IPC Sponsors and Sponsors start seeing the Political Cheating, they will pull back. Money talks!

lillian finch

Excellent thought, Lea Knows.
It would appear that many of us share the frustration and powerlessness of recognising that many of our swimmers are being well and truly stitched up by the IPC while others have a direct passage to gold medals through blatant cheating, and not being able to approach our NPC or the IPC to air our concerns. The IPC continues to fulfil the role of a kangaroo court despite recent developments at World Championships and the subsequent public outcry.
The IPC has several corporate sponsors, including but not limited to, Panasonic, Samsung, Visa and BP. These corporations have a right to know how the IPC classifies its athletes and the consequent emerging public perception of the IPC and the Paralympics in general. I for one would be very happy to add my voice to inform the various sponsors of the current debacle that is classification.

Robert Chrichton

It would appear that Swimming Australia has a bit more to worry about than their under performing male swimmers.

I’m talking of course about the intentional misrepresentation (in less fancy terms – cheating) case of Australian teenage S8 swimming ‘sensation’ Elliott. As if that wasn’t bad enough there now appears to be another one. QLDs’ S8 teenage swimming ‘sensation’ Lakeisha ‘Lucky’ Patterson.

Patterson it seems has had FOUR classifications between 2012 and 2014 which saw her classed anything from Not Eligible for competition, S10, S9, S8 and S7. Not knowing a thing about the rules and process of classification even I find that stretching the credibility of the systems used and as such the integrity of Swimming Australia.

I doubt very much that these swimmers have pulled off this ‘scam’ on their own and heads should role within Swimming Australia.

I agree that the IPC sponsors need to be made aware of what is going on and Swimming Australia’s sponsors should also be made aware.

But what exactly is going on?
Who is in bed with who?

In terms of Elliott and Patterson, Swimming Australia need to instigate an investigation of their own independent of the IPC into these swimmers and in to their own department. A thorough and transparent investigation.

The IPC’s Peter van de Vliet needs to become visible and he needs to be held to account for the IPC’s handling of Eliott and her team managements performance in Glasgow. The buck stops with him. If he doesn’t investigate then Xavier Gonzalez and Sir Phillip Craven should.

It doesn’t bear thinking about if SAL are fixing the outcome of their athletes classifications and it’s even more disturbing to consider that the IPC and its classifiers are complicit.

Swimming Australia’s and the IPCs Ethics, Integrity and Trust have been blown right out of the water and I for one, would not consider sponsorship.

Amali Lowe

Reading all these comments I have to say the whole situation regarding Madison Elliott’s classification is very sad, but at the end of the day she is a minor and I agree with Robert Crichton that Australian Swimming need to conduct their own investigation, particularly in light of the classification of fellow Australian Patterson from S7 to NE over the past two years – not sure how is this even possible? I do think it’s a bit unfair that SE felt the need to drag GB swimmer Kearney into this debate. After all, she is not an S8 and I agree with mattie m that she is clearly in the correct classification as an S9, given her level of impairment. Re the point made by SE that she swam slower in the 400 free and 200 IM whilst being classified earlier this year; looking at the results of that meet she would have been classified using her day 1 swims which were the 100 free and 100 breastroke. The 200 IM and 400 free actually came later in the programme, so these swims would not have formed part of her classification anyway. I notice she actually swam a very similar time in the 100 free final at Worlds to that which she swam in her classification swim which, incidentally, was slower than Maddison Elliott’s S8 WR swim over the same distance! I’m no expert but cannot see much difference in the levels of impairment between all three swimmers so perhaps that just emphasises the original point that people are making – that the Australian swimmers should be S9s too – not just Kearney!

Leave a comment

Post a comment with your SwimVortex Account. Don't have a SwimVortex Account, Sign Up?

(*) Fields are required!