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Thursday January 25, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

An independent investigation has been ordered after a female snowboarder made allegations of bullying and discrimination in British Parasnowsport.

The government's funding body, UK Sport, has launched the investigation in conjunction with British Parasnowport - the national governing body - following a formal complaint by the 26-year-old Cassie Cava.

The amputee was hoping to be the first woman to represent GB in para snowboarding at the Winter Paralympics in March but she has not been selected.

She claims she's been unfairly treated, has faced discrimination and had her funding withdrawn since developing post traumatic stress disorder.

"I've had six months of fighting to be treated with respect and given the same opportunities as the boys but I've been met with barriers every step of the way," she told PlanetSKI.

"I feel totally let down."

Cassie CavaCassie Cava in action















Cava's clinical psychologist says the snowboarder is the victim of "an abusive and unfair process that seems to be setting her up to fail".

PlanetSKI has been told that the investigation will be carried out by the independent mediation service, Sports Resolutions UK.

It will be conducted as quickly as possible but is unlikely to conclude before the Paralympics.

We understand that other members of the Para Snowsports team have been asked if they have any concerns and none has so far come forward.

The investigation will look into the claims of bullying and discrimination and also the way Cassie Cava's case has been handled more generally.

It is now standard practice to investigate such matters independently if a formal complaint is made.

British ParasnowsportBritish Parasnowsport under scrutiny

A British Parasnowsport spokesperson said:

"An athlete who was on our Programme has made a complaint to UK Sport regarding a BPS staff member and a range of other issues. As is absolutely necessary in these circumstances, the complaint will be fully investigated by an independent organisation who will report back to us and UK Sport when it's completed.

This is unlikely to be before the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. We would caution against any conclusions being drawn by others not in possession of all the facts."

Cassie Cava elected to have her right leg amputed below the knee in 2014 after years of pain.

She came second in a World Cup banked slalom event in New Zealand in September and has met the 'A' criteria to qualify for the Pyeongchang Games. 

Cassie Cava takes silverSilver in New Zealand
















She says she was told just before Christmas that she would not be in the team and heard on New Year's Eve that her appeal had been rejected.

However, UK Sport spokesman said the snowboarder had chosen to remove herself from the British Parasnowsport programme:

"British Parasnowsport, UK Sport, the British Athletes' Commission and the British Paralympic Association were working together to support Cassie's ambition to compete at the Paralympic Games.

"Cassie was involved in developing a plan to support her through the selection process and to compete in PyeongChang.

"This pathway remained open to her at every stage, and her Athlete Personal Award payments will continue to be made until the end of April, however Cassie herself chose to remove herself from British Parasnowsport's programme earlier this year.

"Athlete welfare is of the utmost importance to all of us.

"British Parasnowsport and UK Sport have jointly commissioned Sport Resolutions UK to produce an independent investigation and finding of fact into the allegations raised by Cassie Cava, and therefore we are unable to comment further at this stage."

The former medical student, who was one of the faces of Sport England's This Girl Can campaign, joined the GB parasnowboard team in 2015 as the only female.

This Girl Can posterCassie Cava - This Girl Can



















She says that after she informed British Parasnowsport that she had been raped in 2013, she faced discrimination, bullying and alienation and struggled to cope in the all-male environment.

She claims she was thrown off the team last summer and had her funding withdrawn after a spell in hospital being treated for PTSD.

She says she was told she would not be "good enough to train with the boys" and was "a long way off meeting the Paralympic selection criteria".

Cava went to New Zealand and competed as an independent athlete where she won World Cup silver, meeting the performance criteria for Paralympic selection.

Cassie Cava on the podiumCassie Cava (left) on the podium




















She was then allowed back to train with the team, her funding was restored and backdated, but she says nothing was done to put the support in place that she needed to prepare for and compete at PyeongChang.

One of things she asked for was to be allowed to train and live with other female athletes in the parasnowsports team rather than her three male snowboarding teammates.

Cava told PlanetSKI that without support and a fair chance of selection or any intervention with the bullying she was not prepared to jeopardise her mental health further.

She said she had reluctantly made the difficult decision to walk away so she was free to speak out.

"I sincerely hope that something changes here and I will be given the opportunities that I think I deserve - being able to participate in my sport without bullying and discrimination alongside a fair chance of selection for the Paralympics without prejudice," she said.

PlanetSKI has seen extracts of a report by a consultant clinical psychologist who assessed Cava and accompanied her to a meeting on 19th December 2017 to discuss what sort of support the athlete would need to go to the Paralympics.

The meeting was chaired by UK Sport's Head of Sports Integrity, John Donnelly, and included representatives of British Parasnowsport and the British Paralympic Association.

"I did not hear any mention of what the BPA were willing to provide to Cassie; the entire emphasis was not on what the BPA could do for her but what she could to do to help herself," the consultant says, calling the process "abusive and unfair" and apparently "setting her up to fail".

Clinical psycholgist reportExtract from clinical psychologist's report












The British Paralympic Association (BPA) has asked us to clarify that it is involved in the decision-making process only after individual athletes are nominated for the Games by British Parasnowsport (BPS). 

Cassie Cava is also a medal-winning professional paratriathlete.

In June she won European Paratriathlon gold.

Cassie CavaWinning European Para Triathlon gold
















"My experiences as a part of the British Paratriathlon team over the summer have shown me that I can thrive in a sport at the highest level and have proved that my mental health is not a barrier to that," she said.

"I am incredibly grateful for their unwavering support and believe in me as a human being first, and then as an athlete.

"No athlete should feel unwelcome in their sport or fear any form of discrimination."

British Parasnowsport is the latest elite sports body to find itself at the centre of allegations of bullying.

Complaints have been made in para-swimming, bobsleigh, cycling, rowing and football.

Some have been upheld and some rejected.

UK Sport appointed John Donnelly - a former British Army officer - to the post of Head of Sports Integrity in response to the wave of allegations.

PlanetSKI has been told that he is the person responsible for setting the terms of reference for the independent investigation which will now look into Cassie Cava's allegations.


This short video is Cassie Cava's story of how a broken foot led to amputation and to a professional career in para sport.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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