LAUSANNE (AFP) — South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius won an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Friday that could pave the way for an historic participation in the Beijing Olympics.
The disabled 21-year-old sprinter runs on specially adapted carbon fibre blades after having his legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old because he was born without fibula bones in his legs.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had banned the 400m runner from all competitions involving able-bodied athletes because of claims that the artificial legs he uses give him an unfair advantage.
However, CAS ruled Friday against the IAAF decision, adding: "... it is revoked with immediate effect and the athlete is eligible to compete in IAAF events while wearing the Ossur Cheetah Flex Foot Prosthetics, as used in the scientific tests requested by the IAAF and presented as an exhibit at the CAS hearing."
The decision is a huge boost to Pistorius' bid to compete in the able-bodied events in Beijing.
However, to do so the South African now has to overcome the minimum Olympic qualifying time of 45.95sec, or 45.55 if another South African runs less than 45.95. Pistorius' personal record is 46.46.
After hearing the news the South African said: "Today I can pursue my dream of competing in the Olympic Games. If it's not for Beijing, it will be for London in 2012."
Pistorius, who has an 11-month-old baby, has, thanks to his prosthetics, won Paralympic titles and challenged the times set by top-level able-bodied athletes.
However, a scientific investigation into his springy prosthetics carried out by the Institute of Biomechanics at Cologne University last November found that they gave him a clear competitive edge over such athletes.
Pistorius lodged an appeal with CAS in February.
And CAS's three-man panel decided that the IAAF, which claimed that Pistorius benefited from a 'technical device', did not prove that claim to a sufficient extent.
The CAS statement added: "On the basis of the evidence brought by the experts called by both parties, the Panel was not persuaded 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 athletes not using the device."
CAS stated that their decision in this case would not open up the floodgates for athletes with disabilities.
"The CAS Panel has emphasised that the scope of application of this decision is limited to the eligibility 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 application to the eligibility of any other athletes or any other model of prosthetic limb."
Despite his disability Pistorius went through school as a keen athlete, taking part in rugby, water polo, tennis and wrestling.
He only took up running competitively in January 2004 after he sustained a knee injury while playing rugby.
Only a few months later, aided by his 'Bladerunner' limbs, Pistorius went on to win Paralympic Gold in the 200 metres at the Athens Games, where he also won bronze in the 100m.
It was not until March 2007 that the IAAF voted in an amendment to IAAF rule 144.2 (e) for the purpose of regulating technical devices "that incorporate springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over other another athlete not using such a device".
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