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  • Double amputee allowed to compete with able-bodied runners



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

    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

    Pistorius' times

    All were world records for disabled athletes:

    100 meters 10.91 sec.

    200 meters 21.58 sec.

    400 meters 46.56 sec.

    Jamie Carruthers
    Wakefield, UK