A TOP wheelchair basketball player is at risk of retiring from top competition at the age of just 26 after being found ineligible to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Team GB man George Bates was eager to achieve a lifelong ambition by competing in this summer’s Games after winning all the other top honors with his country.
But rule changes introduced by the International Paralympic Committee mean his condition, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, no longer meets the criteria to compete.
George, who lives in Moorgate, was shocked by the decision and called her “crazy”.
An appeal was unsuccessful and he is currently pursuing legal action to try to quash it.
He also has the support of his MP, Sarah Champion, who must raise the issue in Parliament.
With the Games set to begin on August 24, time is running out for George to see that justice is done.
He said, âI have been registered disabled for 15 years and wheelchair basketball has been everything I have done for ten years, itâs such a big part of my life. I trained full time for seven or eight years and gave it all up to get things done with GB, so being told suddenly I can’t compete in the Paralympics is overwhelming.
âI can still play for my club, but not in international tournaments now either, so the funding from UK Sport is going to support my whole livelihood.
âI’m still only 26 years old. A player’s peak is only 30 or 31, so my career was cut short halfway through. â
George was playing cricket, football and golf before his life was “turned upside down” when he was diagnosed with CRPS at the age of 11.
It left him in excruciating pain, even struggling to put on a sock, and it’s thanks to wheelchair basketball that he has since found a purpose in life.
He’s not the only one breaking the Paralympic eligibility rules.
Wheelchair tennis experiences the same classification issues, but while affected athletes have been told they will not be eligible until after Tokyo, exclusion from basketball begins before.
âThe tennis athletes didn’t do anything different to us. How come they can compete and I can’t? It just doesn’t make sense, âsaid George.
âWe tried to get a transition period for the basketball athletes to compete this time around, but the Paralympic Committee turned it down because they are at political war with our basketball federation, arguing medical conditions to be classified and what is not. That’s what it boils down to and athletes like me have paid the price. “
George even considered having his leg amputated so he could continue his international career, but it comes with many risks.
“It might make things better and I might be able to walk more, but it could also complicate my condition and make it worse and leave me in a wheelchair forever, so it’s a real risk to my life,” he said. -he declares.
“We have to explore all options to make sure this is the last thing I can do.”
In the meantime, Leicester-born George is hoping he can exert enough pressure to allow him to join his British teammates in Japan.
He added: âWe’re probably one of the favorites. We won the world championships two years ago and the European championships in 2019 and it’s as good a chance as ever.
âI won it all, but a Paralympic medal is the one I’ve always wanted – and not just any color, it’s gold or nothing. I would love to have the chance to win it for my team and for my country. “