spain basketball team

A former Spanish basketball boss has been  found guilty of fraud 13 years after he  presided over one of the biggest scandals in sporting history.

Fernando Martin Vicente, the  former head of the Spanish Federation for Mentally Handicapped Sports,  fielded athletes with no disabilities at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney in order to win the gold medal.

A Madrid court has now fined him 5,400 euros  (?4,600) and ordered him to return  142,355 euros (?120,500) in government subsidies which the federation received  for the athletes without disabilities.

The scandal broke in November 2000  when  Carlos Ribagorda, a member of Spain?s gold medal-winning  intellectually  handicapped basketball team in Sydney, claimed that he  and other athletes in  categories such as track and field, table tennis  and swimming were not mentally  deficient.

?Of the 200 Spanish athletes at Sydney at  least 15 had no type of physical  or mental handicap ? they didn?t even pass  medical or psychological  examinations,? he wrote in the magazine Capital just  days after the  Paralympics ended.

Ribargorda said he had played  for the Spanish Paralympic basketball team for over two years but had no mental  handicap.

He said the only test he had been asked to  complete at his first training  session was six press-ups, after which his blood  pressure was taken, nor did he face an intelligence test when he was in  Australia.

The final team did comprise two players with  IQs below 70 as required, but  the other ten posed as mentally disabled players  with the help of fake  medical certificates they were provided with.

At one point during the first game of the  tournament, when they were leading China by 30 points, Ribagorda claimed the  coach told the players: ?Lads, move down a gear or they?ll figure out you?re not  disabled.?

They went on to beat Russia in the final. But  their deceit began to unravel when a picture of their victory celebrations on  the court was published by Spanish sports daily Marca.


Soon, readers started commenting that they  recognised some of the players and revealed how they weren?t disabled at all, it  was reported by The Local.

Martin Vicente resigned as the head of the  Spanish Federation for Mentally Handicapped Sports, which was responsible for  screening some participants in the Paralympics in Sydney shortly after the  Capital article was published, saying he accepted ?total  responsibility?.

They were forced to return their medals and  the category of intellectual  disabled basketball was removed from the Paralympic program after the 2000  Games.

He had argued that psychological evaluations  of mentally deficient athletes was difficult and that mistakes had been  made.

?If someone wants to cheat, it?s difficult to  detect. It?s easy to pretend you have little intelligence but the opposite is  difficult,? he said when he announced his resignation.

Eighteen other people, including members of  the basketball team that went to Sydney and managers of the Spanish Federation  for Mentally Handicapped Sports, were also charged over the affair but the court  on Monday dropped the charges.

Spain had their most successful  Paralympics  in Sydney, winning 107 medals to finish third in the medals  table after  Australia and Britain.



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