The Time An Olympic Team Pretended To Have Autism

When you think of the greatest Olympic teams of all time, you might think of the Dream Team, 2012 US Women’s Gymnastics team, or even the scrappy group of guys who brought us The Miracle on Ice. But what if I told you, you’ve never heard of the greatest olympic team ever assembled? 

The Paralympics is one of the greatest traditions in sports. Every four years, competitors from all over the world meet for the Summer Paralympics in the same city as America’s biggest Gatorade athletes. In some Paralympic sports, the athletes’ disabilities are visible – when they run on blades or use a wheelchair, but sometimes, they can be harder to spot.

At the Sydney Summer Paralympics in 2000, Spain’s intellectually disabled basketball team put on a show. The Spainards were so good that they beat their opponents by a combined score of 254-126 through three games. Stardom isn’t for everyone though, the players went through great lengths to conceal their deception – growing beards and wearing bobble hats off the court, in the hope that they wouldn’t be recognized.

But here’s the reason Stephen A. and JJ don’t debate their greatness. Ten out of the twelve players on the team didn’t have an intellectual disability; they were actually not disabled at all. The basketball team only had two players with tested IQs below seventy. The other players managed to evade authorities with fake certificates that showed them with low IQs and mental disabilities. After the Paralympics was over and they won gold, people reading the Spanish newspaper saw their friends and coworkers celebrating the team win, and one of the team’s star players fessed up immediately.

At one point during the first game of the tournament, when they were leading China by thirty points, the whistleblower claimed the coach told the players, Lads, move down a gear or they’ll figure out you’re not disabled. For years, that same coach has claimed that he didn’t know about the cheating. Because of their greatness, athletes with intellectual disabilities weren’t allowed to compete for the next two Summer Paralympics. Hundreds, probably thousands of disabled athletes weren’t able to live out their dream because of the selfish actions of a few- something to think about before we throw Shane Gillis in as our center for 2024.  

Don’t believe me? Check out this game footage.

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