Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius has vowed to keep fighting for a chance to compete in this year's Olympics in Beijing despite a serious set-back handed him by his sport's chiefs, writes Deborah Hobson.
Defiant Pistorius has pledged to appeal against a ban issued by the international athletics' ruling body the IAAF, which prevents him from competing in this years Olympics in Beijing. The IAAF have said that his prosthetic racing blades give him an advantage over able-bodied opponents and contravene rules on technical aids. A scientific study revealed that Pistorius, nicknamed "Blade Runner", used 25% less energy than able-bodied runners to run at the same speed.
Pistorius said: "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," Pistorius said. "I will not stand down."
German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who conducted tests on the prosthetic limbs, has said they give Pistorius a clear edge over able-bodied runners.
But The-Latest's editor Marc Wadsworth, a former member of the prestigious British Athletics Writers Association, said: 'I don't know why the stuffed suits at the IAAF won't let Pistorius run. Despite being a really brave competitor, his track times are no big threat to able bodied sprinters battling for Olympic medals.'
The 21-year-old South African said he was "even more resolute" in his belief that the "Cheetah" limbs to do not give him any competitive boost, saying he is willing take the case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Pistorius's manager, Peet van Zyl, said if the athlete is unable to compete in the Beijing Games, he will continue fighting for inclusion at future Olympics, including London in 2012.
"If it doesn't happen in Beijing it is not going to be the end for us. Hopefully by 2012, he might be on South Africa's Olympic team," he said.
Swapping his running shorts and curved futuristic prosthetic legs, the business management student appeared at a news conference in a smart suit and black-rimmed glasses.
"My dream is to compete in the Olympic Games," Pistorius said. "My times are close to qualifying standards. It is a goal that I am working toward. It will be a bit disappointing if the ruling comes out the other way."
The IAAF received a letter from Pistorius commenting on the Brueggemann study and IAAF president Lamine Diack and the 27-member IAAF Council will assess both the letter and the study over the weekend before announcing its decision.
IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said Pistorius' plans to appeal a ban would not be taken into consideration.
"It doesn't change anything for us," Davies said in a telephone interview. "Whatever he did, we still have our own procedure — to contact the Council, to look at the report, details, the letter from Pistorius and make a decision."
Pistorius worked with Brueggemann in Cologne over two days of testing in November to see to what extent the j-shaped carbon-fiber "Cheetah" extensions to his amputated legs differed from the legs of fully-abled runners.
Brueggemann told Die Welt newspaper last month that, based on his research, Pistorius "has considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs who were tested by us."
"It was more than just a few percentage points. I did not expect it to be so clear," he added.
Pistorius said he was disturbed that Brueggemann had spoken of the results before he had received them himself and "can only wonder as to his motivation and who facilitated this action."
Ossur, the Icelandic company that manufactures Pistorius' blades, said the testing commissioned by the IAAF was incomplete and inconclusive and that aspects of Brueggemann's results needed further investigation.
"Any judgment against Pistorius at this stage and based on insufficient information, would be irresponsible and unfair," the company said in a statement.
The IAAF adopted a rule last summer prohibiting the use of any "technical aids" deemed to give an athlete an advantage over another.
Pistorius has set world records in the 100m (10.91secs compared to 9.74 by able bodied Jamaican Asafa Powell), 200 and 400 in Paralympic events. To make the Olympics in Beijing, Pistorius would still need to qualify for the South African team and make the qualifying times of the Games.
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.
Pistorius competed in the 400 at two international-level able-bodied meets in 2007. He finished second in a "B" race in 46.90 seconds at the Golden League meet in Rome on July 13 and, two days later, was disqualified for running out of his lane in Sheffield, England.