Three-time Paralympic rower Kathryn Ross has backed a new online course to help stamp out cheats and deter athletes from lying about their disability when officials are determining their para-sport classification.
Paralympics Australia has teamed up with ASADA to develop an online course, which will go live on Thursday to more than 600 athletes, coaches, medical staff and administrators aiming to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
The aim is to protect the integrity of all para sports and give athletes comfort they are competing on a level playing field.
Ross, who is hopeful of finding a mixed-sculls partner to qualify for Tokyo, praised officials for becoming on of the first in the world to introduce the course.
"You've got to have the base tool to have some guidance and if it's not in place it does make sport very unfair. It's like someone taking drugs [if they're in the wrong classification]," Ross said.
"If it wasn't in place it could expose sports. It's in place to keep sports fair, especially para sports and I think this module is a great investment tool to give athletes some guidance.
"It isn't black and white in classifications, it's very grey. Sometimes people look at me and wonder if I'm in the right class. As an athlete you have to represent yourself purely as you are. If you don't, you're shaming yourself and your sport."
The new course will be a mandatory part for athletes hoping to be a part of the Australian team. The message from Paralympic's Australia boss Lynne Anderson is simple: non-compliance is cheating.
"Classification is the cornerstone of Paralympic sport and when classification rules are not respected, everyone suffers," Anderson said.
"By introducing this mandatory course, we are sending a clear message that every member of our Paralympic team in Tokyo must know the rules, abide by the rules or face the consequences."
Rowing coach Gordon Marcks said officials would be naive to think some athletes had not lied about disabilities to be entered into certain classification divisions.
"It's unusual for it to happen and there are mechanisms in place to monitor athletes, but it has happened in the past," Marcks said.
"It's just really important that in Australia we're doing the right thing and everyone is aware with where it's at.
"This is about providing a module similar to the one provided around drug use, so that everyone understands what the basic requirements are.
"The focus on classifications are becoming more important as the sport advances at the elite level and with athletes being able to make some dollars."
The course will outline the classification process, requirements of athletes, coaches and support staff, training on ethical decisions and an overview of penalties for non-compliance.
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