Wheelchair Basketball Canada (WBC) has received results from the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) on the eligibility of some Canadian National Team athletes for the Paralympic Games. Three current National Team athletes have been ruled eligible, one athlete has been ruled ineligible, and the remaining athletes are still pending review as part of phase one of the athlete eligibility reassessment by the IWBF and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
The eligibility reassessment is being undertaken by the IWBF as a requirement of the IPC in order for the IWBF to become compliant with the IPC Athlete Classification Code. The reassessment process is taking place in two phases in order for wheelchair basketball to remain part of the Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Phase one of reassessment covers all athletes in the 4.0 and 4.5 sport classes. Cases are being reviewed by an IWBF Eligibility Assessment Panel (EAP) and members of the IPC Classification Commission. See official statement from the IWBF.
Out of respect to the ongoing process and the athletes still awaiting decisions, WBC will not be identifying the outcomes for any other athletes at this time. WBC will issue another statement once we receive all of the results for the Canadian athletes still pending review as a part of phase one.
Statement from Wheelchair Basketball Canada Executive Director Wendy Gittens:
“Today is a very sad day for Canadian wheelchair basketball. We regret that after a long and distinguished career with the Canadian Men’s National Team, four-time Paralympian and two-time Paralympic gold medallist David Eng (Montreal, Que.) has been ruled ineligible to compete at Tokyo 2020 as a result of the reassessment process.
While we are disappointed to see his career with Team Canada end in this way, we are incredibly grateful to David for his leadership and enduring commitment to the National Team program for so many years. He has represented Canada with class and distinction throughout his illustrious career.
On behalf of the entire Canadian wheelchair basketball community, I want to personally thank David for his commitment to excellence, and many contributions to Team Canada. He will always be a part of the Canadian wheelchair basketball family.
Minimal disability athletes such as David have long been eligible to compete within international rules, and have legitimately and fairly participated in the Paralympics up until this point.
All of our athletes, including David, are our topmost priority and we will continue to stand by them throughout this difficult process.
The uncertainty surrounding athlete eligibility for the Paralympic Games has been extremely stressful for our teams and the entire organization over the last five months. While on one hand we are relieved to confirm the status of some individuals, until we receive the results for all Canadian athletes, the ongoing uncertainty will continue to weigh on us all.
Statement from David Eng:
“This is obviously not how I intended to end my international career and I’m disappointed to not be able to finish what I started with my teammates next year in Tokyo. At the same time, this sport has brought a lot to myself and my family and it’s all the positives that I’m going to remember.
Wheelchair basketball is much more than a game, and I appreciate all that it has given to me. It is a vehicle that has brought me so many places, introduced me to inspiring people around the world, and ultimately taught me valuable lessons about life. I am grateful that it has helped shape me into the person I am.
I have been captain of the team since 2007 and am blessed to have enjoyed a great career that has spanned over three decades. As I reflect now, I am focused on all of the many friendships and the camaraderie that have been forged along the way. To all of my coaches and teammates – I have nothing but love for each and every one of you.
I want to thank WBC and the wheelchair basketball community for all the support over the years. It has been a real honour and a privilege to have been a part of Team Canada. In particular, I am proud to have competed with the maple leaf on my chest and to have been a part of the golden years for Team Canada.
This is a very challenging time with everything going on in the world and our sport. I don’t want to be a distraction for my teammates. Know that I had a great run, and will be with you in spirit every step of the way. Go get that podium.”
David Eng will have no further comment at this time. WBC asks that media respect his privacy during this difficult transition.
Statement from Wheelchair Basketball Canada Athlete Representative Brandon Wagner:
“Wheelchair basketball is a team sport, and the impact of these decisions on the individual athletes and the entire team cannot be understated. It’s frustrating to receive some results today, while others continue to wait. It is worse to see the international career of an outstanding teammate and quality person in David Eng end in this way. David has represented Canada for decades with the utmost pride and integrity.
The weight of these life-altering decisions has been a heavy burden for these athletes to bear after investing years into pursuing their Paralympic dreams. To see athletes being ruled out at the eleventh hour through no fault of their own is completely unfair.