Oscar shifts focus to London 2012
Brad Morgan30 January 2008
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius has conceded that the time needed to appeal a ban barring him from competing against able-bodied athletes will prevent him from challenging for a place at the Beijing Olympics. The double-amputee has instead shifted his focus to qualifying for the 2012 London Games.
In a recent interview with Italy's Rai TV, Pistorius said: "I think my battle is not only important for me but for the whole athletics movement. It's important to go forward for all the other disabled athletes who want to compete with able-bodied ones and to break down divisions and barriers."
Pistorius was banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on 14 January after a scientific investigation commissioned by the IAAF concluded that the prosthetics he uses provide him with an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners.
Professor Peter Bruggemann of the German Sport University at Cologne concluded, among other things, that:
- Pistorius uses 25% less energy than able-bodied athletes need to run at similar speeds.
- The mechanical advantage he derives from running with his prosthetics is higher than 30% in the ankle because of the loss of energy in the joint that able-bodied athletes experience.
- The returned energy from Pistorius's prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than that of the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting.
Van Zyl says he sent Bruggemann's report and the analysed data to a number of experts in the United States who told him that not enough variables were taken into consideration.
More tests needed
More tests need to be done, says Van Zyl, and the onus will be on Pistorius to provide evidence that counters the findings of the IAAF-sanctioned investigation.
Pistorius, who was recently nominated for a Laureus Sports Award in the category World Breakthrough of the Year, has called on the IAAF to make clear in its rules under what circumstances he would be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes.
His successes on the track have, it seems, put a scare into international athletics. They include finishing second in the 400 metres at the South African Senior Track and Field Championships and second in a 400 metres "B-race" at the Golden Gala in Rome.
Never before has an athlete with a disability challenged able-bodied runners in the manner that Pistorius has managed to do; yet he has still not managed to run an Olympic qualifying time.
This by itself suggests that there is a case to be made that the disadvantages faced by athletes such as Pistorius outweigh whatever advantages they might derive from the prosthetics they use.
To reach a valid conclusion, it could be argued, all aspects of the case need to be considered; something the IAAF tests did not do, focusing purely on the prosthetics and their relative advantages or disadvantages and ignoring the challenges Pistorius faces as a man without legs.
Blades are 'passive': manufacturer
Pistorius says that, according to Ossur, the company that manufactures his prosthetics, his Cheetah blades are "passive", meaning they do not produce more energy than the the energy input they receive.
In an article in support of Pistorius on the Ossur website, dated 11 January 2008, just three days before he was banned, the company said: "Ossur has reviewed the test results and expects the IAAF to allow Oscar Pistorius to compete because we are confident that the prostheses he is using, which we make, do not give him a technical advantage over able-bodied runners.
"Any other ruling on the part of the IAAF would only raise the question, 'Are we not ready to have amputees on the Olympic stage?'"
The company added: "Thirty years of experience in the research and testing of prosthetic limb technology have taught us that the prosthesis is what makes amputees whole and able to engage in activities such as walking and running. Amputees also view themselves as whole-bodied when wearing their prosthesis.
"To test a prosthesis separately as a component, and not as a completely integrated part of the amputee's body, generates data that is technically incomplete and flawed. Unfortunately, the IAAF took this approach."
Ossur says the technology used in Pistorius' prosthetics has existed since 1997, and has not experienced any significant updates since that time.
"Scores of amputee athletes have used the very same product to compete at an international level of sport over the years," Ossur said.
"Some have come close to able-bodied world record times, but what we have in Mr Pistorius is an extraordinary athlete: one that has taken technology that has existed for over a decade and pushed it to its very limit."