IAAF Denies Pistorius' Campaign to Compete Against Able-Bodied Sprinters

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It is all over...for now.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) barred sprinter Oscar Pistorius from competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying his prostheses provide an advantage. Photograph courtesy of Ossur.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) barred sprinter Oscar Pistorius from competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying his prostheses provide an advantage. Photograph courtesy of Ossur.

South African bilateral amputee Oscar Pistorius, who runs with carbon fiber running prosthetics attached to his legs, will not be allowed to compete at this year's Beijing Olympics, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). A report commissioned by the IAAF released on Monday, January 14, concluded that the artificial limbs used by Pistorius give him a significant advantage over able-bodied runners.

The IAAF's ruling council agreed that Pistorius should not be allowed to run in Beijing or in any other meeting sanctioned by the world governing body.

Pistorius and Ossur, manufacturer of the artificial limbs used by the sprinter, released statements, and Pistorius' manager Peet van Zyl said the athlete would appeal the decision. "I feel that it is my responsibility, on behalf of myself and all other disabled athletes, to stand firmly and not allow one organization to inhibit our ability to compete using the very tools without which we simply cannot walk, let alone run. I will not stand down," Pistorius said in a statement released by van Zyl.

In 2007, the IAAF amended its rules to ban the use of any technical device incorporating springs, wheels, "or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device." A study, carried out by Professor Peter Bruggeman at the German Sport University in Cologne, compared Pistorius with five able-bodied athletes of similar ability.

"Pistorius was able to run with his prosthetic blades at the same speed as the able-bodied sprinters with about 25 percent less energy expenditure," his report concluded. The report said the returned energy from his prosthetic blades, Cheetah Flex-Feet, was close to three times higher than the ankle joint.

The report added: "It is evident that an athlete using the Cheetah prosthetic is able to run at the same speed as able-bodied athletes with lower energy consumption."

Ossur disagreed. A statement from Ossur President and CEO Jon Sigurdsson said, "Based on the biomechanics alone, it is simply not possible for him or any amputee to have an advantage over the able-bodied. As such, we expect that you will rule in favor of allowing amputees to compete at IAAF-sanctioned events if their times qualify them to do so. There is simply no reason at this stage to disallow a young man with Oscar Pistorius' spirit to pursue his dream, unless the real issue is whether you are ready for an amputee to compete against athletes who are able-bodied."

Record Participation at First Volley Tennis Clinic in Pennsylvania

The Orthotic & Prosthetic Assistance Fund Inc. (OPAF) recently hosted a Holiday First Volley Tennis Clinic at Bucks County Racquet Club, OPAF's home court in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. According to OPAF Executive Director Robin Burton, the clinic had record attendance for clinic participants and volunteers.

A film crew from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) also attended the event to record the clinic and conduct interviews with attendees for a short documentary on First Volley, which is slated to premier at the USTA Community Development Workshop in Las Vegas in February.

OPAF and First Volley were selected as the USTA National Community Service Award for Adaptive Tennis for 2007.