Friday, January 11, 2008

IAAF to Rule Against Double Amputee 400m Runner, Pistorius

He's got a lot of fans, but that doesn't seem to hold much weight for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) when it comes to double amputee Oscar Pistorius' eligibility to run against able-bodied athletes. The federation is expected to conclude from tests run this fall on his prosthetic blades that he gets an unfair advantage in open competitions (IAAF release). Pistorius and the company (link) that make his blades feel the ruling is both unfair and premature and are expected to officially appeal.

The issue has received a great deal of media attention of late (Forbes, Wired, Times of London, New York Times), and, admittedly, the IAAF is in a tough situation. That a double amputee could have an unfair advantage against athletes with two perfectly functioning legs is hard to fathom. Yet, the federation is obligated to consider that today's space-age prosthetics may carry a dash of the Six Million Dollar Man effect. The $50,000 they spent on the study of Pistorius' blades was supposed to settle the question. It seems, however, that it may just froth things up even more.

With Marian Jones sentenced today to six months in prison for lying under oath about her steroid use (LA Times), maybe the IAAF's money and resources would be better spent combating rampant doping rather than scuttling the Olympic dreams of a small number of amazing, differently-abled athletes.

Postscript: (1-14-08) As expected, the IAAF officially rules against Pistorius, effectively dashing his hopes to run for South Africa at the Beijing Olympics (IAAF release).

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