Spanish basketball team shocks the world at the 2000 paralymic games


The spanish basketball team at the 2000 Paralympics. (Photo courtesy of Simon Tominson )

Peter Fedyk, Editor in Chief of Content

Fernando Martin Vicente is a name that most people don’t recall; lost to the brutal sands of time. The 2000 Summer Paralympic Games in Sidney most likely won’t raise an eyebrow either. In reality, the story surrounding this man at these games is one of sporting’s greatest stories, but for all the wrong reasons.

At the time, Vicente was the president of the Spanish Federation for Mentally Handicapped Sports and the big boss behind the Spanish team entered into the Intellectually Disabled Basketball event. This team went on to win the gold medal, leading to more grants from the government and, therefore, more money to an institution assisting mentally handicapped athletes. The win was huge for the country and the continuation of FEDDI (La Federación Española de Deportes para Personas con Discapacidad Intelectual), but what if their success was a lie? What if the event had been rigged? What if the intellectually disabled athletes weren’t actually intellectually disabled? Well, they weren’t.

In a shocking reveal after the medal ceremony, ten of the twelve athletes were in perfect mental health. The Paralympic Games issues a IQ to all participants, requiring a score below 75. Many sources vary on how exactly all ten were allowed in: some of the players say they faked scores, some say they weren’t even tested, Spanish officials claim there were forged documents that pushed the players through. Regardless, the firewall failed and a team primarily composed of perfectly healthy semi-pro athletes thrashed every other team they opposed. After the games concluded, the team flew home to Spain. So how were they caught? In a bizarre twist of fate, Carlos Ribagorda, one of the ten players, published an exclusive piece on the whole farce. He was an undercover investigative journalist.

After the whistle was blown, Vicente stepped down from his position in FEDDI. Legally, Vicente was charged with forgery and fraud. As punishment, he was issued a 5,400 euro fine and forced to return 150,000 in sponsorship money. None of the ten false players were charged. One of the Olympic Games’ biggest scandals was met with a slap on the wrist at best. The preparation to test players’ legitimacy and punishing those who cheat correctly are important factors in maintaining the prestige that’s become synonymous with Olympic Games. Going into the 2018 Winter Games, the most exciting sporting event of the year needs to be treated as such: Olympic.