Earlier today, Comité Paralímpico Español (CPE) announced that Spain’s Consejo Superior de Deportes (CSD) recognized support athletes as full fledged athletes that are equal to Paralympic and Olympic athletes. This was an action that CPE had been lobbying for for some time.
Ana Muñoz Merino, Director of the Comisión de Evaluación del Deporte de Alto Nivel (DAN) is quoted by the CSD as saying of this decision, “Remove the barriers to make possible real equality is a goal that the Spanish Constitution requires the public authorities, and today the CSD, through the Athletes Commission DAN has made this aspiration a reality.”
Sports impacted include skiing, cycling, athletics, 5-a-side football, and para-triathlon. These sports are ones where the Paralympics currently reward medals to guides where the vision impaired athlete wins the events.
The DAN has made the exceptional decision to immediately recognize nine support athletes based on their performance in 2012 and 2014 at the Paralympic Games, and at recent world championships in the same period. These athletes include Miguel Galindo who is the alpine guide skier for Jon Santacana, Arnau Ferrer who is the alpine skiing guide for Gabriel Gorce, José Antonio Villanueva who is the tandem bicycle pilot for José Enrique Porto, David Llauradó who is the tandem pliot for Christian Venge, pilot Joan Font who works with Ignacio Ávila, Judit Masdeu who is the pilot for Josefa Benítez, Mayalen Noriega who is the guide for triathlete Susana Rodríguez, and sighted 5-a-side football goalkeepers Raúl Díaz and Pedro Gutiérrez.
The rules will now be changed so that in the future, recognition for these athletes will be easier and based on the same criteria for other elite sportspeople. Getting CSD recognition under Real Decreto 971/2007 as a full fledged elite sportsperson brings a number of benefits, including tax benefits, access to universities to continue their studies, facilitate getting employment that will not interfere too much with training, inclusion in Spanish social security, and easier ability to serve in the armed forces while continuing as a high level athlete.
Currently, Real Decreto lists qualifications for Paralympic sportspeople recognition in article 5:
They are treated as high-level athletes athletes with state or federal license with approved regional license, with physical, intellectual or sensory disability or mental illness who meet any of the following requirements:
A) In the case of individual sportspeople, they are required to have been ranked among the top three in any of the following competitions: the Paralympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, a competition organized by the International Paralympic Committee, by the European Paralympic Committee, International Federations affiliated to the International Paralympic Committee.
B) In the course of team sports, teams are required tohave been ranked among the top three in any of the following competitions: the Paralympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, a competition organized by the International Paralympic Committee, by the European Paralympic Committee, or by International Federations affiliated to the International Paralympic Committee.
Additional criteria found in article 5 also applying, including to be having a regional, state or federal license recognized by international sporting federations, and competing at the senior level or at approved junior level events. Further, they need to be residents of countries where they pay an income tax, and cannot be residents of countries that are tax havens, and they need to be recognized as representing Spain based on the rules of the relevant international sports federations.