Will the IOC Sanctions on Russia affect the Deaflympics ?

The IOC Executive Board has laid down special rules for International Sports Federations to follow when deciding whether or not any Russian athlete can compete in their sport during the Rio Olympics. But what does this mean for the Deaflympics in 2017 – should the ICSD follow the same ruling as the IOC and IPC ? If so, does the doping system in place within the ICSD stand up to scrutiny – can it cope with such conditions ?

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First and foremost, the IOC has granted the ICSD membership into the Olympic Movement and therefore it should follow the decisions of the IOC Executive Board and apply the same sanctions to the Summer Deaflympics in 2017. If it cannot do this, then the ICSD must be held in contempt of a fundamental rule of the Olympic Charter to protect clean athletes and the integrity of sport.

It must apply these sanctions to the Deaflympics of 2017, because it is likely that the IOC sanctions will remain in place until the 2018 Winter Olympics at least.

The most compelling reason for applying IOC conditions on Russia is because their Deaflympic athletes are state-sponsored and thus by association are placed under suspicion to the same degree as their compatriots in the Olympic and Paralympic camps where some Deaflympic athletes share the same training facilities and coaches.

After deliberating, the IOC EB decided that it “will not accept any entry of any Russian athlete into the Olympic games in Rio 2016 unless the athlete can meet the conditions set out below.” (Decision of the IOC Executive Board)

2. Entry will be accepted by the IOC only if an athlete is able to provide evidence to the full satisfaction of his or her International Federation (IF) in relation to the following criteria:

• The IFs*, when establishing their pool of eligible Russian athletes, to apply the World Anti-Doping Code and other principles agreed by the Olympic Summit (21 June 2016).

• The absence of a positive national anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient by the IFs. 

• The IFs should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field.  

• The IFs to examine the information contained in the IP Report, and for such purpose seek from WADA the names of athletes and National Federations (NFs) implicated. Nobody implicated, be it an athlete, an official, or an NF, may be accepted for entry or accreditation for the Olympic Games.

• The IFs will also have to apply their respective rules in relation to the sanctioning of entire NFs. 

It is going to be extremely difficult for the ICSD to apply the four criteria in condition 1. This is because very few Deaflympic athletes are subjected to out-of-competition testing. The lack of political support from national governments to apply equal status on all IOC, IPC and ICSD athletes means that there are no funds available within International Federations to subject Deaflympic athletes to testing.

But this cannot be a reason for the ICSD to claim that it cannot abide by the IOC Executive Board ruling because the second criteria above states that ‘The absence of a positive anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient by the IF’ in other words, if Russian athletes have never been tested, then they cannot prove that they are clean because they are under suspicion as state-sponsored athletes.

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3. The ROC is not allowed to enter any athlete for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 who has ever been sanctioned for doping, even if he or she has served the sanction. 

Condition 3 can be applied, without appeal, all Russian Deaflympic athletes who have ever been sanctioned for doping should not be allowed to compete in the Summer Deaflympics, Samsun 2017. Furthermore, the ICSD should put in place measures to ensure that Russian athletes cannot bypass this ruling by trying to compete under a different name, this is something that can quite easily be done as we cannot trust the Russian Deaflympic officials not to do this as they have already been found guilty, by Russian courts of manipulating audiograms.

4. The IOC will accept an entry by the ROC only if the athlete’s IF is satisfied that the evidence provided meets conditions 2 and 3 above and if it is upheld by an expert from the CAS list of arbitrators appointed by an ICAS Member, independent from any sports organisation involved in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. 

The problem with condition 4 is that whilst Deaflympic sports compete under the rules and adaptations approved by their respective IF’s, there are International Deaf Sport Organisations who fall very well short of running a tight ship when it comes to following IF rules or managing competitions to IF standards or even knowing what ICAS is.

5. The entry of any Russian athlete ultimately accepted by the IOC will be subject to a rigorous additional out-of-competition testing programme in coordination with the relevant IF and WADA. Any non-availability for this programme will lead to the immediate withdrawal of the accreditation by the IOC. 

ICSD cannot afford out-of-competition testing, so it will have to play safe and not allow Russian athletes to compete. Unless of course the Russian state will provide the funds to ICSD to enable it to appoint non-Russian WADA officials to test its athletes.

To close, I put this challenge to the ICSD President Rukhledev:

Sir, you were appointed by the ICSD membership to ensure equality and integrity for Deaflympic sport within the Olympic Movement, I put it to you, that you should seek financial support from the Russian state to fully fund a full, global, in-and out of competition anti-doping programme of the ICSD indefinitely to be carried out by non-Russian laboratories. This act of support to the Deaflympic Movement might go some way to demonstrate to the world that you and your country take anti-doping seriously.

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Doping in Deaf sport not transparent say critics.

According to an article in Parasport News, the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (ICSD) who govern the Deaflympics have been substandard when it comes to reporting on doping violations by Deaf athletes.

The full article from Parasport can be read here.

ICSD rules say that when doping cheats are found out, the results will be advertised on the ICSD website – according to the Parasport article, this has never been done.

Since 1986, a total of 370 Paralympic, Deaflympic and disability sport cheats have been caught – but only 28 have been Deaf and all except two were discovered during the Summer and Winter Deaflympic Games.

The nationalities of the 28 athletes are 5 unknown, 1 German and 22 Russians. The ICSD has not published the names of these athletes, this breaches its own rules in article 14.4:

“The ICSD shall publish at least annually a general statistical report of its Doping Control; activities, with a copy provided to WADA. The ICSD may also publish reports showing the name of each athlete tested and the date of each testing.”

This makes it difficult for competition organisers in Deaf World Championships and regional championships to know who has been banned – because the names are not published according to article 14.4.

The greater concern is that doping is not carried out during World Championship and regional events – so it is likely that many more doping athletes are going undetected.

It is of no surprise that the IOC and other international sports bodies will not take Deaf sport seriously because this lack of transparency does not make officials feel confident about the reliability of Deaf sport to run its events to the highest standards.

It can be argued that of ICSD had done their job properly, delegates at the ICSD Congress in 2013 may not have elected the Russians to run their organisation if they knew that in 2009 and 2010 a total of 15 out of 16 athletes caught cheating were Russian.

This alarming lack of oversight on Doping Control means that the  ICSD Executive Committee has allowed Russian athletes to compete in recent Athletics events organised under IAAF rules despite a worldwide ban in the sport of Athletics. The ICSD Athlete Representative Dean Barton-Smith has had no reply from the ICSD to his written concerns about this.

The same goes for Audiogram cheating; event after being found guilty by a Russian court of law for falsifying audiograms, the ICSD Chief Executive still remains in post. Two Big ears has reported on this previously.

When will Deaf sport wake up and challenge the ICSD Executive about this ?

 

 

10 Reasons why Russia won the game.

Last Tuesday, ice hockey officials awarded a highly controversial last-second goal to Russia, which has most likely denied the Americans the opportunity to compete in the Deaflympic gold medal match today.

Rules of sport are always complicated and fraught with difficulty. But it s also the responsibility of competition organisers to ensure that the selection of tournament officials is done correctly in order to avoid any doubt when it comes to the interpretation of rules.

The controversial goal has been analysed from different angles by television and amateur video footage. The Americans submitted the initial protest within the 30-minute window. When the result came back still in favour of the goal, the Americans lodged an appeal – this too was overruled despite overwhelming evidence in favour of America.

You can see the video evidence for yourself here. Thanks to “Juciermk”

Two days ago, Two Big Ears consulted with their own contacts in Ice Hockey, who are independent from Deaf sport. Their conclusion is that the referee’s decision is final.

Now, normally, we would move on and chalk it all down to experience. But not on this occasion, because the Americans are now waking up and coming to terms with what it is really like to get into bed with the Russians. The official USA Winter Deaflympic news service believes “This event will most certainly result in continued discussions, and hopefully changes so that other teams so not suffer similar injustices in future events.”

Based on the evidence presented to us, the conclusion is that, as long as Russia is in charge of the Deaflympics, the ICSD will allow mismanagement to continue. Host nations will continue to select tournament officials that swing decision-making in their favour. The Russians are not stupid, but they are arrogant, and corrupt deep within their national psyche. Here are the ten reasons why Russia beat America 6-5 on Tuesday evening.

1. HOST NATION-BIAS

The Russian government has invested heavily into Deaf sport and the Deaflympics. On the one hand this is to be applauded, and puts other nations such as the USA and the UK to shame. However, they are a nation whose politics, economy and sport is so heavily entrenched in corruption that they should not have been allowed to host in the first place. The Russian Deaf Sport Federation (RDSF) did not pay the required $25,000 registration fee when originally applying to host the games, this action contributing to the fiscal mess that the ICSD now find themselves in. Approval was only given once RDSF’s own people had taken over the asylum.

2. THE ICSD ARE NOT IN CHARGE.

First of all, evidence strongly demonstrates that the ICSD have lost control of the 13th Winter Deaflympics and the Russians are taking every advantage possible to ensure they win. Whilst Two Big Ears applauds Russia for working in partnership with non-deaf people to host the games, they are seen by others to have taken advantage of the controversial last-second goal to ensure that a team of veteran ice hockey professionals are not defeated by a young and upcoming team of American youngsters.

Secondly, sportsMX TV reported that ICSD President Rukhledev was brought in to mediate between the Russians and the Americans over the goal controversy. By participating in this way, Rukhledev and demonstrated yet again his incompetency to lead the Deaflympic movement;

a) He is the President and therefore cannot be involved with any disputes – but he chose to ignore this and carry on anyway.

b) He is Russian, so how was he going to make himself impartial to any decision-making? Why did he not instruct his neutral Vice President to attend the meeting instead?

c) It was the responsibility of the ICSD TD to resolve the dispute, not the President.

3. THE PROTEST COMMITTEE IS BIASED

The ICSD regulations allow the host (The Organising Committee) to choose who takes control of each sport. In this case, the Russians have appointed three of their own countrymen headed by well-known skating coach. Given reason 1 and 2, it is not surprising that the last-second goal could have been voted 3-1 against. The American protest and subsequent appeal has so far failed to extract “… a clear explanation as to why the goal was counted…” (official US Deaflympic media)

4. RUSSIANS DON’T DO COMPROMISE

According to the USA Deaflympic news reports, there have now been several days since the controversial result was made for officials to have made a correction. Either to have the two teas plan an overtime period, or just agree to a 5-5 tie. Sorry guys, that isn’t going to happen. This is the Russians you are dealing with.

5. RUSSIANS DO CORRUPTION AND CHEATING – IT IS BUSINESS AS USUAL

The Russian Deaf Sports Federation has been found guilty by a court of Law of falsifying an athlete’s audiogram to discredit him. The ICSD Congress has voted to ignore this and carry on. This is normal behaviour from Russians when it comes to participating internationally in sport and foreign policy, as the next two reasons will show:

6. DOPING IN SPORT IS A RUSSIAN NORM

The IAAF is struggling to find real evidence of doping amongst the ranks of Russian athletics. Good luck, it does not have the resources against the Russian system. The same goes for the ICSD, and the audiogram ‘doping’. And;

7. RUSSIAN TACTIC: DENIAL, DENIAL, DENIAL

When Russia invaded the Ukraine, they denied accusations that they had sent in their own troops to take control. When they had control of the Crimea, they clarified that “volunteers” had crossed the border. When faced with the clear evidence of audiogram fraud, they have remained silent and taken advantage of ICSD amateurism and distrust amongst nations to shield themselves from having to come clean.

8. IF THE RUSSIAN’S DON’T LIKE YOU…

One day you will be minding your own business, crossing a bridge and you will get shot from behind.

9. RUSSIANS BLAME OTHER PEOPLE:

  • The invasion of the Ukraine was not their fault
  • Shooting political activists is not their fault
  • Campaigning to overrule the early cancelation of the 2011 Winter Deaflympics, and then blaming others when it all fell apart is not their fault.
  • Concerns about audiogram cheating is just ‘sour grapes’

10. RUSSIANS TAKE CREDIT WHERE IT IS NOT DUE:

  • Contemporary recognition from IOC is not down to Rukhledev, it is thanks to Crowley’s diplomacy (2009-2013)
  • The concept of the International Deaflympic Committee is not Rukhledev’s idea. It was created during Ammons’ residency (pre 2009).
  • Russians have not contributed any beneficial actions to safeguard ICSD or the Deaflympics.

The world should not be surprised then, that the Russians have never been given the opportunity to lead, in any shape or form, a multinational sport federation, commercial entity or geopolitical organisation that includes Western nations. The ICSD Presidency has been a gift to the Russians to practice their imperialism and anti-IOC agenda.

A pity then that Russia has not taken the greatest opportunity to demonstrate good practice by ensuring that the Protest Committee of the ICSD Deaflympic Ice Hockey tournament was multi-national. Something that was well within their means to achieve to ensure that Olympic-level sports governance is transparent. Instead, they have chosen to play the game their way and have done the Deaflympic movement a further disservice by creating further controversy.

 

Deaflympic Congress votes to ignore fraudulent behaviour of the Russians.

Last week, at the 45th Congress of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf, a proposal to discuss concerns about the Russia Committee of Deaf Sport (RCDS) being found guilty (by a Russian Court of Law) of submitting fraudulent audiograms was turned down and effectively ignored.

When put to a vote, 33 delegates were in favour of action, 5 against and 12 abstained. The motion needed 41 votes to gain a majority of 75% to proceed in accordance with the ICSD Constitution.

Staff employed by the RCDS falsified audiograms in 2011 to discredit an athlete. They were found guilty in a Russian Court of Law and another Court also overturned their subsequent appeal in 2014. Dimitry Rebrov, the current Chief Executive Officer of the ICSD, submitted the audiogram and Valery Rukhledev, now President of ICSD, was President of RCDS at the time.

The act of RCDS officials submitting fraudulent audiograms is on a par with Olympic officials submitting fraudulent doping specimens or test results or Paralympic officers submitting fraudulent disability classification assessments.

This raises the question; Do the 12 national representatives at the ICSD Congress who abstained actually understand the implications of the case? Was something amiss in translation? Did the proposers allocate sufficient time to ensure that everyone had read or understood their concerns?

When random testing in carried out at the Deaflympics, athletes whose hearing loss does not meet the audiogram standards are dismissed from competitions immediately. Job done.

But when a national federation is found guilty by a Court of Law of deliberately submitting a false audiogram to discredit an athlete – nothing is done.

Something is not right.

Are the Deaflympics really necessary ?

A common question I often get asked : “Are the Deaflympics really necessary?”

The straight answer is “Absolutely.”  However, people seek justification for that assertion – they want to understand it in ways that they can relate to.

Recently, I came across a short video of Helen Willis and her life as a student at university. Helen wears a cochlear implant and the video explains the pros and cons of day to day living. Before you read the rest of this post, you need to watch the film, (there are subtitles and there is some sign language) It is only about 9 minutes long so please bear with me and come  back to this page once you have finished watching here.

Welcome back. Now, I suspect that some of you will have already decided how some scenes in that video give clear reasons why the Deaflympics are really necessary for the benefit of Deaf people. However, if you are still unsure, allow me to elaborate.

The IOC, in its wisdom, believe that the Deaflympics segregate Deaf people from society. On the contrary, the Deaflympics are necessary to provide opportunities to a balanced world of “silence and synthetic sound”. Although there have been advances in Cochlear Implant technology that now overcomes some of the limits in Helens implant, there is still a need for assistive technology and other resources to enable a Deaf person to function independently. Implants are not a cure and flashing doorbells, electronic note-takers, sign language and the company of other deaf people is still required.

The Deaflympics are necessary because the IOC and sport has not yet solved the barriers that prevail in sport. It is said that the ‘rules of the game’ do not need to be adapted for deaf people – but the environment does. Opportunities to improve communication for Deaf athletes and others in the sports environment remain uncharted, untapped and under-resourced. The assistive technology already in use at the Deaflympics is still not a regular feature in the sports competitions run under International Federation rules. Sports officials are also still ignorant to the simple changes that can be made to enable Deaf athletes to respond when play is stopped. Thus, the Deaflympics are necessary in order to teach the IOC and sport what is required to become inclusive.

The Deaflympics are necessarily  important for society because the development of an elite athlete is similar to the career development of every employee of working age and there are two areas that need attention in order to progress, succeed and get promoted. The first area is the development and practice of skills and activity of the job itself, this has to be done in the most efficient and effective way possible. The second area is the continuing professional development, socializing and networking that enables the worker/athlete to take on more information, insights and confidence to develop their skills and activity area further.

Helen’s experience as a student in an elite academic environment mirror the same difficulties facing Deaf athletes who work hard to function in the elite sporting environment. Like Helen, their brains have to work overtime to fill in the gaps so they can understand the complex information that their coaches are conveying. So much brain-power is used, just keeping up with the coaches and other support staff that assistive technology and resources or changes in behavior and working practices are required.

The sports environment is still very much like the pub scenario described by Helen. She is amongst fellow elite students but she feels useless, all she can do is watch people lips move because it is impossible to understand every word despite being skilled at lip-reading. The ability to contribute is an important measure of a persons worth to others.

The Deaflympic pathway is necessary because it is an untapped source of Olympic talent that has only been utilised by a very small minority ( Terence Parkin, Dean Barton-Smith ) to balance out or springboard up to the next level of elitism. Unfortunately, governments and national governing bodies are blinkered by the Olympic/Paralympic monopoly as the only pathway for disabled athletes. By doing this, they have marginalised elite deaf athletes to the back of the queue when it comes to access to the funding and resources required to succeed. I have covered the impact of this monopoly extensively in the book; Same Spirit Different Team.

The Deaflympics are really necessary because sport and physical activity are beneficial to people’s personal health, well-being and academic/economic efficiency. The same is obviously true for Deaf people, well, it was at one time, when educational systems based on Deaf schools fostered the adoption of active healthy lifestyles engineered through the school – community links that prevailed. Nowadays, that has all but disappeared. Deaf sport has been fragmented and in some localities obliterated into extinction.

The workplace is a stressful environment for everyone and it is possible find ‘release’ in sport and physical activity or other forms of recreation that takes our noses off the grind-stone and allow us to relax and recharge. But not so for Deaf people, the bolt-holes everyone takes for granted are still stressful environments for Deaf people and Helen’s involvement in Dancesport is a good illustration that sport is the ‘happy place’ we can all escape to and ‘forget our cares and lose ourselves’.

Like Helen, all Deaf people seek out the benefits of sport within the mainstream environment, in the local clubs and facilities that are close to hand. But as we saw in the video, the acoustic environment of sport does not lend itself well to effective listening and communication. The interviewer in the video asks Helen “When do you hear? – When do you hear about the results?”. Helen answers “I think I am going to be very happy with it. I’ll be very happy with whatever they say”. Realizing that Helen had not understood the question, the interviewer patiently tries again “Do you know when you hear?” and Helen was able to answer the original question, thus contributing effectively.

The important point to consider here is that this was a one off situation in the relatively short relationship between the interviewer and Helen that lasted for the duration that the film was made. But this occurs more often in the daily relationship between Deaf and hard of hearing people and their hearing friends, colleagues and family members. This scenario repeats itself time and time again, people lose patience and draw away and stop communicating with deaf athletes because it becomes burdensome. I once came across a declaration made by a hearing person that you can invite your Deaf friend to a party once, but only once because the situation with communication was too awkward.

In the film, Helen’s parents are supporting her at the dance competition. Whether or not this is a usual occurrence is irrelevant but their presence serves to answer another point about the support structures that elite athletes need and how this can be found in the Deaflympics. There was someone in the sporting environment that was able to communicate more effectively with Helen as a competitor and provide her with the stress-free interactions that enable the athlete to stay calm and composed under pressure.

If we do eventually succeed in persuading the IOC and sport to recognise and support the Deaflympic pathway correctly, the majority of athletes in the Summer and Winter Deaflympic will still not reach the pinnacle of the Olympics, but they will at best have been given the opportunity to reach their potential. This is true in the case of Rajeev Bagga, five-time Deaflympic badminton gold medalist. Bagga never reached the Olympics, but he did compete in the Commonwealth Games and other world –ranking events. Now retired from the Deaflympics, he still competes internationally in mainstream Masters badminton for England and is now sharing his knowledge and experience with Deaf and hearing people as a badminton coach through opportunities that have been created by Sport England recognizing the key strategic importance of UK Deaf Sport, the British representative of the Deaflympic movement and its network of sports opportunities offered by third sector deaf organisations and their partnerships with national governing bodies and other providers of physical activity. We are only just starting to get there.

We can argue that some political decisions that were made in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the leadership of the Olympic, Deaflympic and Paralympic movements have denied Bagga the opportunity to compete at the Olympics. The International Committee of Sport for the Deaf and Deaf sport needs to learn from this and move forwards. Deaf sport needs to teach society that the Deaflympics are necessary and have much to offer non-deaf people in return.

If you want to know what those benefits are right now or need further information on the politics that have shaped Deaf sport into what it has become today, read Same Spirit Different Team, the latest book on the Deaflympic games.

Thank you to Helen for sharing her experiences with us.

 

The BBC Interview

To round off the week, Two Big Ears would like to give you the transcript of last Sundays interview at the BBC, Sunday 8th September

The presenter was Jamie Coomarasamy.
It was a recorded interview, and I was joined by Rajeev Bagga and our interpreter Peter Shilston

JC: “…. One thing represented at the games, that is Hearing Impairments. Now you may be surprised to know that they have their own games – the Deaflympics. Stuart Harrison is Vice Chair of UK Deaf Sport who can tell me more about how they started.”

SH: ”The original Deaflympic games started as the “Silent Games” back in 1924 and they were set up at a time when society looked on Deaf people as being intelligently inferior, linguistically impoverished and outcasts. So what a group of Deaf sports men and women decided to do was to host an international games which mirrored the Olympics. So, that has been going on since 1924. Then, obviously, we then had the developments at Stoke Mandeville that was coming along with spinal-injury patients. In abut 1988, for about 5 years, the Deaflympic movement was in conversation with the International Paralympic Committee – they actually took part in the International Paralympic Committee because we thought that it might make economic sense to come together with the Paralympics. The conclusion we came to was that it was very difficult to incorporate the Deaflympics into the Paralympics because of the specific communication requirements for deaf athletes. The costs involved in providing interpreters and translators was just too prohibitive”

JC: “ I just seem to find that amazing because surely the costs, separate costs of the equipment which are needed for the athletes in the Paralympics must be equal or outweigh that for interpreters?”

SH: “Oh, absolutely that’s what frustrates us too. But you must understand that we, the Deaf community has enjoyed the Paralympics. So you are quite correct, the argument about costs – something could be done about it. The investment put into for example wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball in the UK, runs into the millions. Yet, if we just wanted to take the whole of the GB Deaflympics team to the next Deaflympics, you know, really, all we are asking for is half a million pounds.”

JC: “But do you want to be included in the Paralympics still ?”

SH: “Back in the 1980s and the 1990s, the Paralympic Games was still developing and I think at that time, the idea of the Deaflympics trying to merge with the Paralympics was very difficult. But, what has happened, obviously, over the last 20 years, is that with the Paralympics going forwards, all the other disability groups now have their world games, so we have the Visually Impaired World Games , Learning Disabilities World Games , Dwarf World Games and so on. And these competitions sit under the main Paralympics as feeder events or as preparation events. So, this is a personal point of view of mine, which is, perhaps we can re-visit the whole thing again, where the Deaflympic games becomes a feeder event to the Paralympics.“

JC: “We were hearing there from Stuart Harrison, the Vice Chair of UK Deaf Sport. So, what are the challenges for deaf athletes ? Well, Rajeev Bagga is a badminton player- a very good one in fact He has won 12 gold medals and was named “Deaflympian of the Century” he also plays in both Deaf and hearing competitions”

RB “ I didn’t know about other deaf people initially and I just started to play in the hearing environment and my parents supported me and I was just competing against more hearing people. I hadn’t met deaf people at that point ; I was just competing with hearing people at home. It was a challenge for me, and I actually started beating them. It was badminton, tennis, squash and I was doing quite well at it and very positively in that way. And then the first Deaflympics, I was quite shocked to know about it, I hadn’t heard of it, so I joined it and said obviously I am deaf so can you give me some information to do this. And so then I was in 1989, in my first Deaflympics in New Zealand and I started beating everybody and I thought from the experience I had gained from competitions with hearing people I thought the standards when I got there I felt I was able to cope very well with the competition.”

JC: “I just want to get out what exactly what is hampered by not being able to hear in the sports that you play?”

RB: “ I was able to do it when I was younger because I had the family supporting me. My father would support me with the communication so you see I would not have been able to do it on my own. As time had got on, I got into a hearing team and it got to quite a difficult stage where I was being hampered, I was actually trying to communicate with the rest of the team through lip-reading and simple gestures and it wasn’t as good as I would have liked it to be”

JC: “So when you are on the court, what does the interpreter do? Do they simply give you the calls form the umpires? Is that the only thing that you are missing out on?

RB: “You know, well, its prior to a match all referees are informed of me being Deaf so they know that I am going to be playing. So, I am competing against a hearing person and they use scores, they use visual scores (Rajeev signing the flip-card sign), so I can see that and sometimes if they have made a mistake and I don’t understand what the call is, the interpreter then steps in to explain what the call was or what the issue has been – we tried actually to do the actual games without the interpreters but it’s the clarification of particular points that are needed…”

JC: “So, in terms of actually playing the sport, it’s not really, it doesn’t really hamper you that much, it is the understanding why certain calls are being made and the communication with the umpires in general ? “

RB: “Yes that right”

JC: “How would you compare your experience in deaf sport versus your experience in non-deaf sport ?”

RB: “ I have got a passion with Deaf sport. I can see that it’s a lot better to actually have those competitions because the communication is there and you have those interactions throughout so I feel a lot more confident and a lot more comfortable in Deaf sport than I do in hearing competitions. If I am playing in hearing sport it is not as easy and so I need the extra communication because without that I don’t know what is going on and I feel as though I am not on a par with them to know what is going on.”

JC: “That was Rajeev Bagga a badminton player there and I was speaking to him with the help of an interpreter Peter Shilston. Now looking ahead here in the BBC World Service when we will have coverage of the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic games….“

Have a good weekend !

Why should Society Recognise and respect the Deaflympics?

On Friday Two Big Ears promised to answer the question ‘Why should society recognise and respect the Deaflympics?”

In tonights post, Two Big Ears will demonstrate that the Deaflympics are worthy of its equal standing to the Paralympics by using the concepts of “Deaf Gain” and the Social and Medical Models of Disability and the benefits of elite disability sport.

Commentators and spectators alike are suggesting that the Paralympics is re-defining the term ‘disability’ and therefore justifying a sociological impact of sport. The Deaflympics are also capable of doing this.

First some short definitions:

“Social Model of Disability”  The social model of disability identifies systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) – society is the main contributing factor in disabling people.

“Medical Model of Disability” The medical model of disability focusses on the individuals limitations and ways to reduce those impairments or using adaptive technology to adapt them to society.

“Deaf Gain” is defined as a reframing of ‘deaf‘ as a form of sensory and cognitive diversity that has the potential to contribute to the greater good of humanity. There are several concepts within Deaf Gain, including; Deaf Increase – the opposite of hearing loss, emphasising that Deaf people have something of importance. Deaf benefit – deafness is a benefit as well as a loss. Deaf contribute – all the ways deaf people contrinbute to humankind

Between 1988 and 1993, the ICSD became a member of the IPC to try and find a way to assimilate into the Paralympics. Unfortunately, through the social model of disability the process identified systemic barriers created by the need for interpreters and the costs of this.  When I was interviewed by BBC Newshour yesterday, the presenter challenged the issue “But surely, these days the costs of providing funds to give paralympians specially designed wheelchairs, limbs , equipment and so on must far outweigh the costs of providing sign language interpreters – (in order to allow Deaflympians into the Paralympics)?” A mute point up for discussion between IPC and ICSD

In 1924, the founders of the Silent Games were looking for ways to empower deaf people though the Olympic ideals of Cubertin. Using the power of an international muli-sports competition for the greater good. The motto at the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics was “Power in Me” (The Chinese literal translation was “The Power of Silence”) it empowered both the deaf and the hearing to come together and learn about sign language. The Deaflympics brought a benefit to the Taiwanese hosts to enable them to provide a service to visiting athletes and supporters. The LOC of the games was a mixed team of deaf and hearing people in order to empower everyone and give them an opportunity that would ordinarily be denied.

In the context of Deaf Gain, Deaflympic athletes and coaches should be valued by society because they have something to contribute. Hearing coaches and athletes can pick up new ways of learning and interacting with their sports environment in order to improve performance. One example I have read is an occasion where the Swiss national junior snowboard team hired a coach who was deaf. “The coach realised that the snowboarders were listening to the sound of the board cutting into snow so they could work out if they were making the quickest stops and sharpest turns possible.  The coach was not satisfied with this reliance on auditory cues and made his athletes wear ear-plus during training. Deprived of their usual sensory feedback, the snowboarders initially felt out of their element, but the earplugs forced them to learn to depend on the feel of the snow beneath their boards. Eventually the athlete’s performances improved markedly.”

The Deaflympic are a great forum for “transnationalism” through gesture and sign language. A model of human interaction in a globalised world. Deaflympians are able to interact and communicate with each other across linguistic boundaries immediately. Therefore, in comparison, Olympians and Paralympians have to find a common spoken language before they can communicate successfully.

This week, Tom Smith, a deaf cyclist from Wales is competing in the European Deaf Cycling championships. Tom is not a native sign language user, he has been educated using the oral tradition. His tweets from Russia this week illustrate transnationalism. “Sign language improving. Alphabet similar to ASL. Just keep forgetting f & g ha ha!….. After the race, stood around talking to Russians, Belgians, French, Germans, Austrians, six nationalities including me – one language. How cool is that!”

By comparison, in the book “Sky’s the Limit” there is a description of a daily routine of GB cycling academy which at the time, was 3 hours road work, one hour lunch, 3 hours French then 3 hours track work. They needed to learn French so that they could live and work on mainland europe where French is a dominant language for cycling teams and training environments.

Olympians and Paralympians have a lot to gain from the valuable contributions that Deaflympians bring to human communication.

The article I  have read on ‘Deaf Gain’ concludes with the potential impact of this concept.

“For most parents, the concept of a deaf baby conjures up anxious thoughts of isolation, limited communication and myriad other difficulties for their child. But that is the old frame. The new frame, the frame of Deaf Gain, sees the baby not as a problem but as an asset. A family with a deaf baby benefits by being exposed to a new language and culture and to new people, ideas and experiences. A deaf baby is value added to a family, but the contribution benefits not only the family but general society as well. Every deaf baby born on this planet is a gift to humankind.”

In a world where the Deaflympics is recognised and valued, the above vision of a deaf baby in a hearing family could be translated to a local level in sport. At the moment, to most coaches and athletes, the concept of a deaf athlete/teammate conjures up “anxious thoughts of isolation, limited communication and a myriad of other difficulties”. But through Deaf Gain, the team can see the deaf athlete as an “asset”. A team with a deaf player benefits by being “exposed to a new language and culture and to new ideas and experience”. Value the Deaflympics and it will become a gift to sport and humankind in the same way that the Olympic and Paralympics have inspired a generation this summer.

Two Big Ears was originally planning to stop his campaign when he Paralympic flame was extinguished. But it has been decided to continue as they are some much more to learn about deaf sport. Only by keeping the Deaflympics and the forefront of society’s conscious might we see a “fair deal” for Deaflympians.

Two Big Ears will be blogging twice a week. so please watch out for future posts.

If you like what you are reading here and wish to keep up with other discussions on the subject, you are welcome to visit the UK Deaf Sport group on LinkedIn for professional discussions.