Rule would bar amputee from Olympics

Updated: May 31, 2007, 12:32 PM ET
Associated Press

MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Track and field's governing organization proposed a rule Thursday that would prevent a South African amputee sprinter from competing at the Beijing Olympics.

Oscar Pistorius, who had both legs amputated below the knee as an infant, wants to run in the 2008 Games. With high-tech blades attached just under his knees, he has run nationally competitive times in the 400, 200 and 100 meters.

But officials of the International Association of Athletics Federations consider the blades an artificial aid, and its executive council proposed a new rule that would outlaw them.

The proposed rule would prohibit "use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device."

The rule was originally meant to ban sophisticated gadgets that manufacturers add in the shoes of top athletes to make them run faster. But it would also cover the prostheses used by Pistorius.

This and other proposed rule changes will be submitted to the full IAAF Congress at its Aug. 22-23 meeting in Osaka, Japan, on the eve of the world championships.

IAAF officials maintain the sprinting prosthetics give Pistorius an unfair advantage by making his strides longer. He contends his stellar performances are a result only of his sprinting talent.

The 20-year-old Pistorius runs on "Cheetah Flex Foot" protheses, flexible curved blades which allow him to run in a style similar to able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius won gold in the 200 meters and bronze in the 400 at the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004.

This year, Pistorius has clocked times of 10.91 seconds in the 100 meters, 21.58 seconds in the 200 and 46.56 seconds in the 400. Those are world records for disabled athletes, and he finished second in the 400 meters at the South African Championships in March.

Pistorius' times are still short of those needed to qualify for the Olympics, but he hopes he can improve before July 23, 2008 -- the deadline for meeting qualification requirements.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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