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jscarruthers17
06-24-2007, 11:44 PM
TRACK AND FIELD

_http://www.statesman.com/sports/content/sports/stories/other/06/23/062_
(http://www.statesman.com/sports/content/sports/stories/other/06/23/062)
3amputee.html

Double amputee allowed to compete with able-bodied runners
South African Pistorius' goal is to run in 2008 Olympic Games.
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By Celean Jacobson

Saturday, June 23, 2007

PRETORIA, South Africa — International track officials changed their
stance on champion amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius and will allow
him to compete against able-bodied runners while researchers try to
determine whether his prosthetics give him an advantage.

But Nick Davies, spokesman for the International Association of
Athletics Federations, said discussion of Pistorius competing in the
Olympics was premature, noting the 20-year-old had not yet run times
that would allow him to qualify.

"Oscar can compete. No one can stop him running," Davies said.

Pistorius's manager, Peet Van Zyl, called the overture an about-face.
In March, the IAAF introduced a rule banning from competition any
runner deemed to benefit from artificial help. That had been
interpreted as scuttling Pistorius' hopes of being the first disabled
runner to compete in the Olympic Games, with his sights set on
Beijing in 2008.

Pistorius was born without fibulas — the long, thin outer bone
between the knee and ankle — and was 11 months old when his legs were
amputated below the knee. Striding on his curved prosthetics, which
touch only a few inches of ground, Pistorius now looks as comfortable
and light-footed as a gymnast.

He hasn't yet been able to process the news.

"I have just been putting all my energy in training," he said
Thursday, speaking by phone about whether he would run in an upcoming
meet in Italy.

Pistorius has clocked 10.91 seconds in the 100 meters, 21.58 seconds
in the 200 and 46.56 seconds in the 400 — world record times for
disabled athletes. He finished second in the 400 meters at the South
African Championships — an able-bodied meet — in March.

Pistorius' times wouldn't qualify him for the Olympics, but he's
close in the 400. He needs to run a 46.3 before the July 2008
qualifying deadline.

"I want to go forward and I can't if I have to compete only at a
local level. The way to go forward is by running against people
faster than me," said Pistorius, dubbed "Blade Runner" because of the
shape of the feet on his carbon-fiber prosthetics.

Davies said the March ruling had been misinterpreted. It prohibits
the "use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or
any other element that provides the user with an advantage over
another athlete not using such a device." It was aimed at
sophisticated gadgets manufacturers add to the shoes of top athletes.

Banning Pistorius "was never the purpose of the rule. It was never
the intention," Davies said. He said the IAAF was going to work with
Pistorius to conduct research on the runner and his prosthetics.
Davies said one of the aims was developing criteria for prosthetics
and other aids. "Perhaps certain prosthetics will be allowed and
others won't," he said.

"We have nothing against disabled athletes, on the contrary, but we
need to be fair," Davies said, saying Pistorius' case was taking the
federation into unfamiliar territory.

"This issue is so new. Oscar is an exceptional athlete, maybe unique.
He is on the very edge of disabled and able-bodied sports. No one
else has ever done that, that is why we are in the dark," Davies
said.

When Pistorius is not wearing the prosthetics designed for sprinting,
he has flesh-colored prosthetics with well-defined calves to fit his
muscular frame. He is adamant his blades give him no advantage.

"They are passive devices. If anything I am at more of a
disadvantage. I have no ankles. There is less blood flowing through
my body. I have no calf muscles so I have to use more muscles to do
what they would," he said. "These exact feet have been used for 14
years and there has never been a paralympic sprinter to run my
times."

Pistorius' times

All were world records for disabled athletes:

100 meters 10.91 sec.

200 meters 21.58 sec.

400 meters 46.56 sec.

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Jamie Carruthers
Wakefield, UK