The international news and the blogosphere this week has rightfully been dominated by coverage of the dreadful events in Sichuan, and the relief efforts. It’s difficult to concentrate on other news.
However this Friday saw ground-breaking news that will reflect strongly on the Olympics, if not in Beijing then certainly in future events. After months of appeal Oscar Pistorius has been told by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that he is free to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (full report here).
This ruling has over-turned the decision made by the IAAF that had barred him from competing against able-bodied athletes. The IAAF’s decision was based on the theory that Pistorius’ carbon fibre prosthetics give him an unfair advantage, as proven by research last November. The Court of Arbitration concluded that this research was flawed.
For a fuller discussion of the reasoning behind the ruling see the New York Times’ new Olympics blog.
What does this mean…?
Firstly it means that Oscar Pistorius can run in the 400m at the Beijing Olympic Games, if he reaches the qualifying time. Courtesy of the NYT again the qualifying time for the South African Olympic team is “45.95 seconds, or 45.55 if another South African qualifies. Pistorius’s personal best at 400 meters is 46.46″. This seems unlikely, but failing this Oscar could still run in the 4 x 400m relay.
Oscar is viewing the situation in the long term, and London 2012 could be the pinnacle for his ambitions: “Now I can definitely say the truth has come out. I have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of the Olympics if not 2008, in 2012.”
For other disabled athletes with Olympic dreams this will act as a spur of encouragement, though the Court were clear in pointing out that this was specific to this case and not to be applied across the board:
“The panel’s decision has absolutely no application to any other athlete, or other type of prosthetic limb.
Each case must be considered by the I.A.A.F. on its own merits. The ruling does not grant a blanket license to other single or double amputees to compete in I.A.A.F.-sanctioned events using Cheetah Flex-Foot Prosthetics or indeed any other type of prosthesis.”
It does seem unlikely, however, that another athlete using the Cheetah® Sprint Feet (manufactured by Ossur) would be refused entry to the Olympic Games without considerably more research. Whether or not it is correct, the situations will surely be reassessed when an athlete with prosthetics or other artificial aids is out-competing their able-bodied ‘un-assisted’ opponents.
For now, the Beijing Olympic Games look likely to benefit from the participation of another superb athlete and great character. The Blade Runner rides again.