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Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius was born on 22 November 1986 in Sandton, South Africa. He is an athletic sprinter, one of the fastest in the world, whose perhaps only other notable feature is that he has no legs.

He has been nicknamed the blade runner, due to the fact that below his double-amputated knees, he has carbon fibre blades instead of feet.

The reasson for the amputation, was due to a defect in the way his legs formed. Oscar was born with a congenital absence of the fibula in both legs. This created a short, deformed leg, with his feet fused as unmoving stumps at the end of them. At 11 months old, these stumps were removed, almost up to the knee.

Despite this, he was active at sports in school, playing rugby, on simple prosthetic legs, until an injury to his knee in 2004, reminded him just how fragile his locomotion was.

He was introduced to running in January 2004 while undergoing rehabilitation, and "never looked back".

Quoting from a Telegraph interview in 2007:

I only started sprinting in January 2004. I thought that I would be going back to the rugby season at school in April 2004, but started sprinting as part of my training after an injury, entered the South African disabled championships, and never looked back. I went well in the championships and after that I went to the Paralympic Games in Athens when I was 17. My first 200 metres was 24.1sec, and my first 100m was 11.78. My 100m time has come down nearly a second to 10.91 [a new world disabled record set on April 7 this year at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled, South Africa] the 200m to 21.34sec and the 400m to 46.34sec, and I hope to keep getting faster. I'm not 21 until November, when I become a senior athlete.

I was born without fibulas in both legs due to a congenital condition. Before my first birthday my legs were amputated below the knee. I'd compete in the Olympics if I could, and I will if I can. I'd like to be able to compete in both the Paralympics and Olympics. I'm taking my case to the International Olympic Committee and the IAAF. I feel I have a responsibility to push things as far as I can. I have the ability to do it, so I feel I'd be stupid not to do it. The most frustrating thing is people saying I have an advantage with the carbon-fibre blades. You get out of them what you put in. I'm working with Professor Tim Noakes, of the University of Cape Town, who wrote The Law of Running. He's busy preparing my case to put before the IAAF, which is that I have no advantage over able-bodied runners.

The IAAF started questioning whether a disabled athlete could run in able-bodied times. When it was proven that Oscar could, theey changed their stance to one of denying him, and all disabled athletes, the right to compete in an able-bodied event. That, they said, was what the paralympics were for.

They then claimed that a man with prosthetic feet has an unfair competitive advantage over one with natural feet. Whilst that will undoubtedly one day be potentially true depending on model, the Cheetah blades are something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they are about 30% stronger than natural feet, as they are in a sprinter position, with a coiled ankle for running like a wolf or cheetah. Human legs go straight down, and do not have the same forward momentum. German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann showed that "An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30%) when compared to someone not using the blade".

Yet, on the flip side, the Cheetahs lose a great deal of muscle mass. All the lower leg, and foot huscles are gone. All power is coming from the knee and upper leg. The pushing power of the ankle is gone, and Oscar struggles to get off the starting block much more than an athlete with powered feet. The two elements cancel out. Increased effectiveness at running, versus decreased locomotive power.

Credit: Ossur (Manufacturer)

Oscar took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after IAF ruled, feeling it was unfair. He was being judged guilty, with the emphasis on him proving his innocence, which is the opposite of a normal court system. Both sides of the argument were heard, and CAS ultimately overruled IAAF, saying that:

From the court's original statement:

The CAS panel has determined that IAAF did not meet its burden of proof that rule 144.2 (e) is contravened by Oscar Pistorius. On the basis of the evidence brought by experts called by both parties, the Panel was not pursuaded that there was sufficient evidence of any metabolic advantage in favour of a double-amputee using the Cheetah flex-foot. Furthermore, the CAS Panel has considered that the IAAF did not prove that the biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device gives Oscar Pistorius an advantage over other athletes not using the device.

The CAS Panel has emphasised that the scope of the application of this decision is limited to the eligability of Oscar Pistorius only, and only, to his use of the specific prosthesis in issue in this appeal. It follows that this decision has no eligability on any other athletes or any other model of prosthetic limb.

In other words, for each athlete, a separate courtt case will more likely than not be heard, and for each upgrade in prosthetic, for each athlete, again a new courtcase will need to be heard, as the IAAF does appear adamant in their decisdions not to let prosthetics users compete on the same level as other athletes, without court overridance, each time.

400m times 200m times 100m times
47.34 - Pistorius
47.8 - 1928 Olympic gold
44.00 - 2004 Olympic gold
21.97 - Pistorius
22.0 - 1920 Olympic gold
19.79 - 2004 Olympic gold
11.16 - Pistorius
11.2 - 1906 Olympic gold
9.85 - 2004 Olympic gold
Sprint Comparisons in seconds- Source BBC

Oscar is cleared for competition in the 2008 Olympics, but, as of time of writing, has failed the first qualifying event.He had to obtain either the Olympic "A" standard time of 45.55 seconds or the "B" qualifying time of 45.95 seconds if no other athlete from his country achieved the faster time.

On 2 July 2008, Pistorius competed in the 400 metres in the B race of the Notturna International in Milan but failed to achieve the minimum Olympic qualification time, completing the race in fourth place in 47.78 seconds.

He has two more trials to make, the last being on the 16th of July.


Pistorius did not qualify for the South African 2008 Olympic team. His personal best was 46.25 seconds in the 400 metres in Lucerne, Switzerland, on 16 July 2008.

The qualifying time was 45.55 seconds. Four other runners for the country, achieved better times.


My Sport: Oscar Pistorius

Wikipedia: Congenital absence of the fibula

Olympic dreams of a blade runner

Pistorius is eligible for IAAF competition

Court of Arbitration for Sport Findings on Oscar Pistorius (PDF)

Staff Comments


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