Beijing - Irishman Derek Malone was banned from the Paralympics because authorities deemed him not disabled enough, Irish sports chiefs said on Thursday as they and the athlete voiced outrage at the decision.
The Paralympic Council of Ireland was notified this week that Malone, who won a bronze medal in his class in the 800m in Athens in 2004, was ineligible to take part in the seven-a-side football tournament in Beijing.
This followed a review by a Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association classification team during the Ireland v Iran pool game.
The ruling stated that, in his current condition, he did not meet the minimal disability criteria.
Cerebral palsy is an impairment resulting from injury to the developing brain that leads to altered neuromuscular function, but the condition can improve with athletic training…as was the case with Malone.
"I'm bitterly disappointed and frustrated by the whole process," Malone, 28, told reporters.
"I’m also disappointed that the team's preparations have been so hampered by this issue at the most important tournament in the last four years for us."
‘Victim of flawed rule book’
The Paralympic Council of Ireland said Malone had been assessed by a neurologist before the Games who ruled that he fitted the criteria to participate.
Council secretary general Liam Harbison said Malone had been punished for training hard and pursuing excellence.
"It appears to be the case that if he had not pursued his athletic endeavour with such zeal for a significant time period leading into these Games he is more likely to have been classified eligible. That is at odds with the very ethos of high performance sport," he said.
"We feel he has become a victim of a flawed rule book that hasn't kept sufficient pace with the development of elite cerebral palsy sport."
A letter signed by the Ukrainian, Brazilian, Dutch and Irish national Paralympic committees has been submitted demanding Malone be reinstated.
The ruling follows one handed down last week to an Australian athlete, Jessica Gallagher, 22, who was told she was not blind enough to compete before the start of the Paralympics.