Amputee Oscar wins landmark case

19 May 2008

Oscar Pistorius’ dream is alive again after the Court for Arbitration in Sport ruled that his prosthetics do not give him any advantage over able-bodied runners, thus paving the way for him to compete in the Olympics.

Pistorius was full of smiles after the decision was handed down on Friday and told reporters he shed some tears when he heard the favourable outcome of his challenge. He said his battle had dragged on too long, but that it was a great day for sport, which will go down in history as an important moment for the equality of disabled people.

The decision by the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) marks a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Pistorius after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled in January that his blades gave him an unfair advantage. The IAAF reached its decision after a two-day scientific investigation, supervised by Professor Peter Bruggemann at the German Sport University of Cologne.

Support

Pistorius approached experts in the United States to investigate his case and see if they found differently to Professor Bruggemann. Their findings, which supported Pistorius’ case, included the important contention that not enough variables were considered in the IAAF tests. Thankfully for the Paralympic superstar, CAS agreed with his conclusions.

The President of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, accepted the ruling with good grace, saying: “The IAAF accepts the decision of CAS and Oscar will be welcomed wherever he competes this summer. He is an inspirational man and we look forward to admiring his achievements in the future.”

Earlier this month, swimmer Natalie du Toit became the first amputee to qualify to compete in the Olympic Games. Now, incredibly, South Africa has a second athlete who could compete against able-bodied athletes at the Beijing Olympics.

Important case

Unlike Du Toit, Pistorius uses prosthetic limbs when he competes and that is what makes his case so important for the future of athletes with disabilities.

Whether he achieves his goals of competing in the Olympic Games or not, his courageous fight has paved the way for future generations of athletes with disabilities and set an important precedent which could prove to be of far greater importance than any result he achieves in a race in his career.

The road to Beijing for Pistorius is not as simple as it might seem. He hasn’t competed for some time now because he has been fighting his case against the IAAF, which has consumed what could have been his training time.

He is yet to run an Olympic A-standard qualifying time of 45.55 in the 400 metres or even a B-standard mark of 45.95. In fact, his best time is a Paralympic world record of 46.56, which he ran against able-bodied athletes when he finished second in the South African Senior Track and Field Championships in 2007.

Relay possibility

Clearly, he would have to improve quite markedly to earn a place at the Olympics, but a faint gap is open to him. He could make it to Beijing if South Africa qualifies for the 4 by 400 metres relay. To do that, the national team needs to be one of the 16 fastest in the world. It is something that they haven’t yet done.

The most likely scenario is that Pistorius won’t make it to Beijing. He has, however, opened up the way for a full-blooded tilt at the 2012 Olympics in London. It is a far more realistic goal especially since his fight to compete against able-bodied athletes has taken him until only a matter of months before the Games in China.

Pistorius has admitted that the 2008 Olympics is probably a bridge too far, but the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin beckon. After that, he could have another shot at the Olympic Games.

Thanks to “the Blade Runner” and his fight to compete, he might not be the only athlete with a prosthetic limb to make it to the Olympics.

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