The International Association of Athletics Federations has just ruled that double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius cannot use his “Cheetah” blades in the competitions it sanctions, including the 2008 Olympics. I mentioned this the other day, but today’s NYT article reveals a little bit more.
The decision was reached in an e-mail vote by the 27-member IAAF Council. The vote count was not disclosed but was believed to be unanimous.
The IAAF endorsed studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who conducted tests on the prosthetic limbs and said they give Pistorius a clear competitive advantage over able-bodied runners.
”An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30 percent) when compared to someone not using the blade,” the IAAF said.
The federation said Pistorius had been allowed to compete in some able-bodied events until now because his case was so unique that such artificial protheses had not been properly studied.
”We did not have the science,” IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. ”Now we have the science. We are only interested in competitions that we govern.”
Davies stressed the findings only covered Pistorius’ specific blades and did not necessarily mean that all lesser-abled athletes would automatically be excluded.
Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able bodied runners on about a quarter less energy. He found that once the runners hit a certain stride, athletes with artificial limbs needed less additional energy than other athletes.
The professor found that the returned energy ”from the prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting.”
Based on these findings, the Council ruled against Pistorius.
Basically, the prostheses he uses allow running function beyond what properly functioning living legs would provide. While I hate to exclude denying a disabled person access to the competition, this ruling does not do this. It only states that these particular prosthetic limbs are disallowed. Other prostheses that offer a similar level of energy transfer would be allowed.
However, Pistorius’s manager disputes these findings.
”Based on the feedback that we got, the general feeling was that there were a lot of variables that weren’t taken into consideration and that all avenues hadn’t been explored in terms of coming to a final conclusion on whether Oscar was getting some advantage or not,” Van Zyl said. ”We were hoping that they would reconsider and hopefully do some more tests.”
There is still another appeal before the decision is final.
Addendum: IAAF link