Double-amputee sprinter can pursue Olympic dream: ruling
Court of Arbitration for Sport overturns ban imposed by international athletics federation
In a unanimous ruling, the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Friday that double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius will have a chance to represent South Africa at the Beijing Olympics this summer.
CAS overturned a Jan. 14 ruling by the International Association of Athletics Federations barring the 21-year-old from competing against able-bodied runners and said it goes into effect immediately.
"I am ecstatic," Pistorius told reporters in Milan, Italy. "When I found out I was crying. It is a battle that has been going on for far too long. It's a great day for sport. I think this day is going to go down in history for the equality of disabled people.
"We have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of participating in an Olympics, if not in 2008 then in 2012 [in London]."
Despite Friday's decision, Pistorius would still need to qualify for the South African team to race at the Aug. 8-24 Games.
In January, the IAAF ruled that Pistorius's J-shaped "Cheetah" prosthetic blades were energy efficient and gave the 21-year-old athlete a technical edge.
Pistorius' lawyers countered with independent tests conducted by a team led by MIT professor Hugh M. Herr that claimed to show he doesn't gain any advantage over able-bodied runners.
CAS said the IAAF failed to prove that Pistorius's running blades give him an advantage.
"The panel was not persuaded that there was sufficient evidence of any metabolic advantage in favour of a double-amputee using the Cheetah Flex-Foot," CAS said. "Furthermore, the CAS panel has considered that the IAAF did not prove that the biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device gives Oscar Pistorius an advantage over other athletes not using the device."
Pistorius will resume training in South Africa on Monday, before returning to Europe on May 28. His manager, Peet van Zyl, said Pistorius will be running in able-bodied races July 2 in Milan and July 11 at the Golden Gala in Rome, and that many other offers have been coming in.
"Oscar will be welcomed wherever he competes this summer," added IAAF president Lamine Diack said in a statement. "He is an inspirational man and we look forward to admiring his achievements in the future."
Pistorius holds the 400-metre Paralympic world record of 46.56 seconds, but that time is outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55. His training has been disrupted by the appeal process.
"My hopes are very big for the Olympics for 2008," Pistorius said. "I think the time period at the moment is very short. Obviously, I have the opportunity, so I am not going to let it go … but it is going to be very difficult in order to run those times."
Even if Pistorius fails to get the qualifying time, South African selectors could add the University of Pretoria student to the Olympic 1,600-metre relay squad.
Pistorius would not require a qualifying time and could be taken to Beijing as an alternate. Six runners can be picked for the relay squad. Pistorius also expects to compete in Beijing at the Sept. 6-17 Paralympic Games.
"We are very much hopeful that he will be part and parcel of our team," said Leonard Chuene, president of Athletics South Africa.
Pistorius finished second in the 400 at the able-bodied South African national championships last year, and has set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 in Paralympic events.
"Oscar Pistorius is a determined and gutsy athlete who will now no doubt put all his energy into reaching the qualification standards for the Olympic Games," the International Olympic Committee said in a statement. "If he makes it we would be delighted to welcome him."
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.
With files from the Associated Press