DAEGU, South Korea, (Reuters) – Double amputee Oscar Pistorius must run the first leg for South Africa if he is to take part in the 4x400m relay at the world championships, athletics governing body said yesterday.
“This person is a particular case,” IAAF head Lamine Diack said of the athlete who runs with carbon fibre prosthetic blades in place of his lower legs, which were amputated before he was a year old due to a congenital condition.
“The only thing we said to the South African federation is that if he wants to run in the relay, he must run the first leg to avoid danger to other athletes.”
The 24-year-old, who will become the first double amputee athlete to compete at the world championships, said he would be proud just to be picked for the relay team and would run whichever leg team management told him to.
“We haven’t confirmed the positions of the relay, or if I’m even in the relay yet,” Pistorius told reporters, adding that he knew which positions made the “best sense”.
“If I get any opportunity to run in the relay I’ll be proud just to do that. I’ve run in many relays in different legs and I’ve never had a problem or an incident so I’ll just listen to what they say and give it my best.”
Pistorius first competed against able-bodied athletes in 2007 but the IAAF then amended its rules to ban the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device”.
In the following year the world governing body said scientific research had shown Pistorious enjoyed an advantage over able-bodied athletes and banned him from competitions held under their rules.
However, the decision was over-ruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, making Pistorius eligible for the 2008 Beijing Olympics although he was unable to qualify for the South African team, winning gold medals instead in the Paralympic 100, 200 and 400.
The South African accepted that there would always be a certain degree of controversy on the issue. He said he had “great respect” for Diack and the IAAF and that all he could do was to follow the rules, train hard and do his best on the track.
Michael Johnson, who won the world 400 title four times and still holds the world record of 43.18, said he supported Pistorius competing in Daegu.
“I’ve been clear about my position from the very beginning. I’m supportive of Oscar because the rules state that he can compete,” said the American.
“My position on the rule is that probably more work should be done. Now that there’s this controversy again I think people are unsure.”