CrossFit Releases Statement Addressing Adaptive Division Growing Pains this Season
Last week, CrossFit HQ released a lengthy statement to the community addressing this year’s adaptive division changes and the inevitable difficulties that go hand-in-hand in trying to create a more inclusive and fair competition this season.
Remind me: This season, CrossFit changed the rules for adaptive athletes so that a diagnosis of a particular illness or disability is no longer enough to qualify for an adaptive division.
- This year, athletes had to go through physical testing and assessments, and submit paperwork, proving they have one of the 10 eligible impairments, and that the impairment affects their ability to do CrossFit, essentially creating a “minimum impairment criteria” to ensure the adaptive competition doesn’t become about crowing “the least impaired athlete,” a CrossFit representative explained to the Morning Chalk Up.
- Ultimately the rule change made many past adaptive athletes ineligible this season, especially in the neuromuscular (now multi-extremity) division. In fact, most of last year’s CrossFit Games neuromuscular competitors were found ineligible, leaving many of them disgruntled and feeling like CrossFit was telling them they’re simply “not disabled enough.”
Three key takeaways from CrossFit’s Statement
Neuromuscular to Multi-Extremity: First, CrossFit addressed why they changed the neuromuscular division to the multi-extremity division—the division they said was “discussed the most.”
- “We acknowledge that this change has caused confusion and want to provide transparency around why the decision was made,” the statement read.
- They went on to say that after last season, they received “numerous complaints” that the division at the Games had been unfair, resulting in “accusations from athletes about intentional misrepresentation of impairments.” Further, CrossFit’s Adaptive Competition Eligibility Board (ACEB) also observed these athletes on-site at the Games and “concluded that the division needed to be reevaluated,” CrossFit wrote.
Addressing the Ineligible: CrossFit acknowledged that one of the “consequences” of the new requirements was that a certain number of athletes who previously competed in the neuromuscular division are now ineligible for the multi-extremity division.
- “In a perfect world, we would create a division to capture the athletes who no longer meet the minimum impairment criteria, but that was not possible within the 2023 season due to resource constraints,” the statement said.
- That being said, they also acknowledged that they recognize these ineligible athletes still have “real, life-impacting impairments,” despite not meeting the minimum standard, and are empathetic. “We understand the emotional impact of being deemed ineligible and have taken all the feedback from affected athletes to heart,” the statement added.
- Further, CrossFit noted that although the new rules did lead to athletes being ineligible, the “majority” of the athletes who competed in the adaptive divisions in the Open were found eligible.
Looking Ahead: If you’re an adaptive athlete deemed ineligible and still have hopes of appealing, the statement basically says don’t bother.
- “For 2023, we will not be modifying the Adaptive Athlete Policy or reversing any classification decisions that have been made by the eligibility board. It is important that we follow the rules set out this year and continue to treat each athlete consistently.”
The big picture: Tightening adaptive eligibility criteria has to be seen as a step forward for the greater adaptive CrossFit community in terms of creating a more fair and inclusive competition, even if it felt like a step back for many. Further, CrossFit promises to continue to take feedback and evolve into the future.
“Just like we did at the close of the 2022 Games, we will work diligently to evaluate 2023 and chart a path for the future,” they wrote. “We’re listening.”