MILAN (Reuters) - Double amputee Oscar Pistorius can try to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after winning his appeal against a ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the South African said on Friday.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled in January that runner Pistorius could not compete with able-bodied athletes because the carbon-fibre blades attached to both legs gave him an advantage.
The 21 year-old appealed to CAS, which ruled in his favour on Friday following a hearing with various scientists at the end of last month.
“I don’t think ‘really happy’ describes it. I’m ecstatic. The battle has been going on for far too long. It is a victory for sports in general. I think this day will go down in history,” Pistorius told a news conference in Milan, where his lawyers are based.
“Now I can definitely say the truth has come out. I have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of the Olympics, if not 2008, in 2012.”
He confirmed he would run in able-bodied races in Milan on July 2 and at the Rome Golden Gala on July 11, where he competed last year and endeared himself to Italian fans.
The 400 metres will be his main target but he is realistic about his chances of making the Aug 8-24 Games with the qualifying deadline in late July.
“I’ve missed the whole South African season. The time period is very short. It’s going to be very difficult for me to qualify (for the able-bodied Games),” he said.
He could run in the relay in Beijing without a sufficient individual time but is not holding out much hope with South Africa’s 4x400m team struggling to qualify.
Pistorius, who won gold in the 200 metres and bronze in the 100 metres at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, was emphatic that he would compete in this year’s Paralympics in September whether he qualified for the able-bodied Games or not.
He reckoned the camaraderie between paralympians was better than between able-bodied athletes but said essentially there was no difference between the two.
“Sport is supposed to bring people together not judge and separate,” he said.
Swiss-based CAS, the world’s top sports court, said in a statement that the IAAF had not proved competition rules had been contravened by his J-shaped blades.
“On the basis of the evidence brought by the experts called by both parties, the panel was not persuaded that there was sufficient evidence of any metabolic advantage in favour of the double amputee using the Cheetah Flex-Foot,” the statement said.
The IAAF welcomed the decision and said more research needed to be conducted into the effects of prostheses.
“The IAAF accepts the decision of CAS, and Oscar will be welcomed wherever he competes this summer,” a statement said.
“He is an inspirational man and we look forward to admiring his achievements in the future.”
Editing by Miles Evans