Former Paralympian sues Nine for defamation over A Current Affair segment claiming she ‘might have exaggerated her disability’

Former Paralympian Amanda Reid is suing Nine for defamation in response to an A Current Affair segment which investigated claims that the “Rio Paralympian and silver medallist might have exaggerated her disability”, Mumbrella can reveal.

“Forget sandpaper-gate or [the] football supplements saga, the evidence we present tonight points to a sporting scandal unlike anything Australia has ever seen,” reporter Seb Costello promised at the beginning of the package, which aired in September 2018.

The segment, entitled ‘What is her disability?’, aired last year

The investigation began after footage emerged of Reid walking “10 strides” to her car. She competed in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games and won a silver medal in a track cycling event for athletes with cerebral palsy.

Reid’s former swimming coach Simon Watkins took issue with the footage, likening the misrepresentation of a disability with “a drug cheat in an able-bodied sport”. A Current Affair said Watkins and Reid worked together when she was competing as an intellectually disabled athlete, under the name Amanda Fowler.

Watkins, the segment’s source, claimed that Reid competed as a vision impaired athlete in 2015, before winning silver the following year at the Rio Paralympics as a cyclist with cerebral palsy.

Reid won silver in track cycling at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics

“On the dais, Amanda’s arm seems impaired, and in later reports celebrating her achievements, she walks with a crooked foot. But the severity of these symptoms would be brought into question dramatically by this covert footage taken after the [Rio de Janeiro Paralympic] Games, anonymously supplied to A Current Affair,” Costello reported.

The journalist, son of former federal treasurer and Nine chair Peter Costello, is himself in talks with lawyers, after Seven’s Edwina Bartholomew recently tweeted “Surprising articulate for a [censored]” about him.

In his reporting on the Reid story, Costello did note the athlete was supported by the Australian Paralympic Committee.

“Now it’s important to note that Amanda Reid has always met the criteria required under the system. Para-classification is run by each sport’s international federation. Officials known as classifiers test an athlete, to determine their disability and to what extent it affects them,” he explained.

“While classifiers will often have a medical background, it’s not mandatory. Amanda also has the backing of Australia’s Paralympic Committee [APC] who told A Current Affair: “The thorough and multi-faceted process that Amanda has undertaken is without question, when the facts are examined.”

The APC told NITV News at the time that Reid has multiple impairments and was subject to “rigorous” testing, like all Paralympians.

“Amanda’s former coach – Simon Watkins – is not a classifier or a medical practitioner. His observations … are opinions,” the APC said.

“Amanda’s case is certainly not unique to Paralympic sport. Paralympic athletes can have multiple impairments and compete in different classifications across sports – this is catered for within international classification rules governing Paralympic sport.”

A Current Affair reporter Seb Costello

In a statement of claim filed in the Federal Court on 10 September, Reid said the A Current Affair story is defamatory in 15 ways, including that she: fraudulently represented she was disabled and fraudulently won a silver medal, is a “despicable person who pretends to be disabled”, “cheats genuinely disabled athletes out of positions and medals”, and is a “con-woman”.

The court documents, viewed by Mumbrella, also state that the segment implies she manipulated the Paralympian classification process, took advantage of non-medically qualified classifiers – consequently damaging the Paralympic brand – and left swimming only to re-emerge just before the Rio Games “with a new name, a new event and a new disability”.

The segment was uploaded to A Current Affair’s YouTube channel. A written story on the allegations raised in the program was also posted to Nine’s website, and a link to that article shared on Twitter.

Reid is claiming each of these separate publications are defamatory, and caused aggravated damage to her because of the “over-sensationalised manner [of the segment] noting the language, tone and production style, indicating intent to injure” her. She submits that Nine did not make “any proper inquiries” before publication, and refused to apologise after a request for an apology was made on 23 October, 2018.

Nine declined to comment on the case.

In addition to compensation, Reid is asking that Nine pays her legal costs and the court issues an order that permanently stops Nine from publishing the allegations. The court action will begin with a case management hearing set down for 15 November.


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