Canada’s Patrick Jarvis runs for president of International Paralympic Committee

CALGARY — Patrick Jarvis believed he’d met all the criteria at the national championship to run the 1,500 and 800 metres for Canada at the 1988 Paralympic Games.

He was told, however, that Canada’s track team heading to Seoul had been all but decided six months before the championship.

Jarvis’s anger propelled him into a lifetime of Paralympic sport stewardship. The 59-year-old from Morrin, Alta., is running for president of the International Paralympic Committee.

The election to choose a successor to Sir Philip Craven of Britain is Friday in Abu Dhabi.

While Jarvis ran middle distances in the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, the frustration the arm amputee felt in ‘88 made it clear to him that sport for the disabled needed to be run more professionally and equitably.

“Call it my Irish or Scottish blood, it did not sit well,” Jarvis told The Canadian Press from Abu Dhabi.

“I told the individual his volunteer role as president of Canadian amputee sports was done or would be shortly.”

A successful bid would make Jarvis the second Canadian at the IPC’s helm. Edmonton’s Robert Steadward was the first president from 1989 to 2001. Steadward’s successor was Craven who is stepping down after 16 years.

The other candidates running for IPC president are Brazil’s Andrew Parsons, Denmark’s John Petersson and China’s Haidi Zang.

All candidates made their presentations Wednesday at the IPC Congress.

“My strategy is to get to the second round,” Jarvis said. “The other three candidates have concentrated areas of support. I do not. Mine is much more of a global quilt where I have pockets of support in different areas.

“If I can get through to the second round and let’s say the Asian candidate or European candidate drops off, I think I would actually pull a significant number of votes into my camp.”

Currently the executive director of Canada Snowboard, Jarvis was president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee from 1998 to 2006 and was the Canadian team’s chef de mission in Nagano, Japan, in ‘98.

He’s a 12-year member of the IPC and has served on its board for two terms. His Twitter campaign hashtag is “.moreispossible”.

“I think I can bring a different culture to the movement,” Jarvis said. “The previous president, Phil Craven, had a very strong drive and vision about making it a global movement and making it better for the athletes, more competitions.

“I would be less about growth in terms of competitions, medals and events. My growth will be around effective, respectful business processes.”

The profile of Paralympic sport has risen in recent years.

Via television, radio and online coverage, the IPC says the 2016 Rio Games reached 154 countries, compared to 115 in 2012, for a total of 3.8 billion viewers.

The IPC emerged as a sports organization with teeth last year when it banned Russia from competing in the Rio Paralympics because of widespread allegations of state-sponsored doping.

That hard stance contrasted with the International Olympic Committee’s decision to leave sanctions up to international sports federations.

With corruption scandals rocking international sports federations and the IOC, Jarvis says the IPC must protect the social capital it has built and be seen by the public as a sports organization with integrity.

“It starts with the athletic performances, but they also see the lack of corruption many international federations right now are festooned with,” Jarvis said.

“I think with that public trust there’s ‘OK, this is an organization that seems to do things well appropriately.’

“We need to continue to ensure we be extremely diligent on anti-doping, we need to constantly improve our classifications, but we need to ensure we apply and hold ourselves to the highest standard continuously.”

The IPC announced Wednesday that Russian athletes competing as “neutrals” will be allowed to participate in qualifying events this winter. But Russia must still fulfil seven criteria before the IPC will lift the ban for the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The criteria includes accepting WADA’s findings, reforming the national drug-testing agency and changing how Russian Paralympic sport is administered.

“They are working with our task force, they are doing what they can, the timeline they’re not meeting as fast as anyone would like,” Jarvis explained.

“As a safety valve, let’s give them a chance to at least compete in the qualification events and reserve the right that if we don’t see progress, then those qualification events don’t matter because they’ll still be under suspension.”

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