The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) today stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships that were slated to be held in Sarawak this July after Putrajaya banned Israel’s participation in the sports event.

The IPC, which organises the Paralympic Games, pointed out that when it signed a contract with the Paralympic Council of Malaysia in September 2017 to host the World Para Swimming Championships, it was assured that all eligible athletes and countries would be allowed to participate in the event.

“Since then, there has been a change of political leadership and the new Malaysian government has different ideas. Politics and sport are never a good mix and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia,” said the IPC in a statement.

IPC president Andrew Parsons stressed that all World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes.

“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host,” he said.

“As a result of the Board’s decision today, we are now looking for a new host for this vital World Championships, which acts as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”

Parsons said IPC would try to maintain the same dates and conditions for the Championships, but flexibility was required in lieu of the circumstances.

Kuching, Sarawak was set to host the World Para Swimming Championships from July 29 till August 4. It was set to feature 600 swimmers from 60 nations including Israel. With 160 titles up for grabs, it was to be a precursor for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

However, due to Malaysia not having any diplomatic relations with Israel because of a pro-Palestine stance, Israelis cannot enter Malaysia and vice versa.

According to IPC Athletes’ Council chair Chelsey Gotell, they have been receiving a lot of feedback from athletes regarding the situation in Malaysia and are discussing possible alternatives.

“We have discussed all potential outcomes and engaged with the World Para Swimming Athlete Advisory Group to gather their feedback on the situation to ensure the athletes’ voice was well reflected in the IPC Governing Board discussion and decision,” said Gotell.

“Not only does this decision stress the importance of keeping sport and politics separate, but it also reinforces the IPC’s commitment to our fundamental moral and ethical principles that encompass inclusivity of all eligible Para athletes and nations to compete at IPC sanctioned events,” said Gotell.

IPC’s decision means the World Para Swimming Championships have been disrupted for the second time in a row after the 2017 edition in Mexico City was delayed by two months following an earthquake.