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Amputee Sprinter Pistorius Barred from 2008 Olympics


Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee sprinter from South Africa, says he will not give up on his dream of competing against able-bodied athletes at the Olympics. This after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), track and field's governing body, revoked his eligibility January 14. VOA's Tony Budny has more on the story.

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius trains and competes just like any other sprinter, even though both of his legs end just below the knee.

Pistorius competes with prosthetic leg attachments known as "Cheetahs." On these carbon fiber blades, he captured three Paralympic gold medals and delivered three world record sprinting performances.

He competed against able-bodied sprinters in March 2007 at the South African National Championships. His time in the 400-meter race could have qualified him for the country's 4x400 relay team. But, the IAAF ruled recently that his prosthetics provided a significant advantage and the agency disqualified him from competing in this year's Olympics.

Robert Hersh, an IAAF official said, "We don't to be in a situation where somebody could develop a prosthetic that could give a clear advantage. We want to make sure that competition is a competition between athletes, not between manufacturers."

The IAAF based its findings on scientific testing of Pistorius' prosthetics that found that he expends 25 percent less energy to run at the same speed as able-bodied athletes. Pistorius plans to appeal the decision and have independent tests done on his prosthetics.

His agent, Peet van Zyl, said, "It's obviously very disappointing, the fact that Oscar's not going to be allowed to compete in IAAF sanctioned events and also the Beijing Olympic Games."

"I just look forward to this year,” said the sprinter. “I'm really looking forward to still competing in the Paralympics and my training is still going to go as planned. And I'm sure we'll sort this thing out in the end, in a couple of months hopefully."

Pistorius says he still plans to work on meeting individual Olympic standards, starting with the 400-meter time, and will continue training for the 2012 Olympics.

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