After months of setbacks, South-African sprinter Oscar Pistorius has won his appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Court's decision overturns a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations, allowing Pistorius the opportunity to qualify for the 2008 Oympics in Beijing.
The IAAF had made a series of escalating arguments against Pistorius in order to prove that he should be ineligible, but the CAS decision immediately overturns all of them. The IAAF first claimed that Pistorius might fall, injuring himself or others, and should be barred from competition for safety. The IAAF made this decision without evidence that demonstrated that Pistorius was any more likely to fall than an athlete without a disability. In short, their first claim was based upon incorrect, biased assumptions about people with disabilities.
Next, the IAAF claimed that Pistorius' running blades did not provide the same wind resistance as a normative shin. In a sport decided by hundredths of a second, this argument seems to have validity; however, the rules governing the sport do not (yet) include a provision for a minimum shin size, so to exclude Pistorius alone for lack of drag would be completely unfair.
Finally, the IAAF has argued that Pistorius receives a mechanical advantage from his running blades. Again, no tests demonstrate this to be true. In fact, tests do demonstrate that he is mechanically disadvantaged when leaving the starting blocks.
Now, the CAS has cleared the way for Pistorius (and other athletes with disabilities) to compete on the world's largest stage for sport.
According to an ESPN.com report:
"The panel was not persuaded that there was sufficient evidence of any metabolic advantage in favor of a double-amputee using the Cheetah Flex-Foot," CAS said. "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."
Pistorius' training has been disrupted by the appeals process, and his Paralympic-record 400-meter time is a second off the qualifying pace for the 2008 Olympics, but now he has the summer to focus, compete, and attempt to qualify. Moreover, he can be placed directly on the South African 1600-meter relay squad.
When commenting about the appeal, Pistorius said, "'It is a battle that has been going on for far too long. It's a great day for sport. I think this day is going to go down in history for the equality of disabled people'" (ESPN.com).