Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius has won his appeal and can compete for a place in the Beijing Olympics.
|Oscar Pistorius will set his sights|
on Beijing [GALLO/GETTY]
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the 21-year-old South African is eligible to race against able-bodied athletes, overturning a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
"I am ecstatic,'' Pistorius said.
"When I found out I cried. 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.''
CAS said the unanimous ruling goes into effect immediately.
"As you can imagine I have been struggling to hide my smile for the last half an hour,'' Pistorius responded from Milan, Italy.
"I can definitely say the truth has come out. We have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of participating in an Olympics, if not in 2008 then in 2012.''
Pistorius must still reach a qualifying time to run in the individual 400 metres at the August 8-24 Beijing Games.
However, he can be picked for the South African relay squad without qualifying.
IAAF ban overturned
Pistorius appealed to CAS, world sport's highest tribunal, to overturn a January 14 ruling by the IAAF which banned him from competing against able-bodied runners.
The IAAF said his carbon fiber blades gave him a mechanical advantage.
A two-day hearing was held before a panel of three arbitrators at CAS headquarters last month.
"The IAAF Council's decision of 14 January 2008 is revoked with immediate effect and the athlete is eligible to compete in IAAF events,'' CAS said.
The IAAF said it accepted the binding decision.
"Oscar will be welcomed wherever he competes this summer,'' IAAF president Lamine Diack said in a statement.
"He is an inspirational man and we look forward to admiring his achievements in the future.''
Pistorius holds the 400 metre Paralympic world record of 46.56 seconds, but that time is outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55, a huge gap by professional standards.
His training has also been disrupted by the appeal process.
Even if Pistorius fails to get the qualifying time, South African selectors could add the University of Pretoria student to the Olympic 1,600-metre relay squad.
Pistorius would not require a qualifying time and could be taken to Beijing as an alternate.
Six runners can be picked for the relay squad.
His manager, Peet van Zyl, said a national relay team must be ranked among the world's top 16 to qualify for the Olympics.
"At this time the men's relay team have not achieved that position yet,'' van Zyl said.
"If that happens there is the possibility that Oscar can compete in the Olympics in the 4-by-400, but then again it is up to the South African coaches if they want to select him.''
Pistorius also plans to compete in Beijing at the September 6-17 Paralympic Games.
"If I still make the qualifying time for those, the door will still be open in the Olympics,'' he said.
Pistorius said he will be running in both able-bodied and Paralympic events before Beijing.
Golden Gala trial
|Oscar Pistorius will show his wares |
in Rome [GALLO/GETTY]
Van Zyl said the runner will compete in Milan on July 2 and the Golden Gala meet in Rome on July 11.
"A lot of the time we've had this year we've devoted to the court case,'' Pistorius said.
"Now when I get home my time can be dedicated to training. I am going to have to start thinking about getting my body in shape in order to run those (qualifying) times. I am hopeful there will be enough time but it is going to be very difficult.''
The verdict also clears Pistorius to dedicate himself to competing at the 2012 London Olympics.
The IAAF based its January decision on studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who said the J-shaped "Cheetah'' blades were energy efficient.
Pistorius' lawyers countered with independent tests conducted by a team led by MIT professor Hugh M. Herr which claimed to show he doesn't gain any advantage over able-bodied runners.
CAS said the IAAF failed to prove that Pistorius' running blades gave him an advantage.
"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 was born without fibulas, the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle, and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.
Pistorius' American lawyer was thrilled by the verdict.
"He simply has the chance now to compete fairly and equally,'' Jeffrey Kessler said.
"We are particularly pleased that the decision is unanimous.''
Pistorius was born without fibulas; the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle, and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.