PARIS (AFP) — South African paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius has been told he cannot compete in the Beijing Olympics because the artificial legs he uses give him an unfair advantage.
The decision to ban the 21-year-old sprinter from all competitions involving able-bodied athletes was announced by the sport's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Monday.
Pistorius, who as an 11-month-old baby had both of his legs amputated below the knee due to a congenital disorder, runs on specially adapted carbon fibre blades that have seen him win paralympic titles and challenge the times set by top-level able-bodied athletes.
But 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.
The results of these tests were handed over to IAAF president Lamine Diack last week and he asked his 27-strong executive council to make a ruling.
A statement from the IAAF said that the Cologne tests had involved comparing the running efforts of Pistorius against that of five able-bodied athletes who are capable of similar levels of performance at 400 metres.
"Pistorius was able to run with his prosthetic blades at the same speed as the able bodied sprinters with about 25 percent less energy expenditure," the IAAF statement said.
"As soon as a given speed is reached, running with the prosthetics needs less additional energy than running with natural limbs.
"The IAAF Council has been able to review the full report and has decided that the prosthetic blades known as "cheetahs" should be considered as technical aids in clear contravention of IAAF Rule 144.2.
"As a result, Oscar Pistorius is not eligible to compete in competitions organised under IAAF Rules."
Pistorius, dubbed by the press as the "Blade Runner", has already taken part in major IAAF-sanctioned events such as last July's Golden League meeting in Rome, and he has made it clear his dream was to compete at this summer's Beijing Olympics, possibly in the South African 4x400 metres relay team.
After the ruling, Pistorius's spokesman Peet van Zyl announced plans to appeal after he had studied the ruling.
"We are going to appeal against the ruling of the IAAF. But before then, Oscar Pistorius would like to get all the details of the tests carried out on him by the IAAF," van Zyl told AFP in Johannesburg.
"He will still have to undergo more tests before we seek the opinion of our legal experts. The tests will enable us to build up our case on which we hope to lodge an appeal," added van Zyl, who is also Pistorius's agent.
The South African denies he gains an unfair advantage over his rivals and he had already said before the verdict that he would contest any ban imposed by the IAAF on his racing activities.
"I feel that it is my responsibility, on behalf of other disabled athletes, to stand firm," he said.
Pistorius, currently studying business management at Pretoria University, embarked on his running career only three years ago while jogging during his recuperation process after breaking a knee in a rugby match.
He soon swapped the rugby field for the track and has never looked back, breaking paralympic world records on 19 different occasions. His running blades are made in Iceland at a cost of 12,000 euros.
Pistorius's paralympic world record of 46.34 seconds is however way behind the best times by able-bodied runners.
The fastest time of an athlete still competing is 43.50 set by American Jeremy Wariner, while the world record stands at 43.18, set by compatriot Michael Johnson. Pistorius has also not managed to achieve the Olympic qualifying time.
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