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.'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 (Ł4,600) and ordered him to return 142,355 euros (Ł120,500) 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.
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 as 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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