Oscar PistoriusYou may recall a couple years ago when Oscar Pistorius was banned by the IAAF from competing because they felt that his prosthetics gave him an unfair advantage over people that still had both of their legs.

This news was quite a sensation, since there seemed (at the time) to be a very good chance that Oscar would qualify for the Olympics were he given the opportunity to race. The Court of Arbitration for Sport decided that there wasn’t enough hard evidence to rule one way or another and forced the IAAF to allow him to compete.

The real question about what to do should he make it to the Olympics and medal unfortunately never came up, since Oscar’s PR of 46.25 in the 400m was 0.3 seconds too slow to allow him to go to Beijing.

There had been some evidence he had an unfair advantage but the Court of Arbitration for Sport felt that the research had been rushed and that it was biased against Oscar and wouldn’t allow it to be considered for banning him.

Two of the researchers who helped the CAS come to that conclusion were Peter Weyand and Matthew Bundle, who have continued to analyze the research data since then and have now reversed their position about whether Oscar has an advantage or not.

Because each of Pistorius’s limbs — which include the stump, the socket and the blade — are more than six pounds lighter than a biological leg would be for someone his size, it is easier for him to churn them at top speed.

Using a high-speed force treadmill, Weyand and Bundle also determined that Pistorius could keep the blade on the track longer than an able-bodied athlete keeps his foot on the track, giving Pistorius a longer push-off with each stride.

“As soon as Dr. Bundle and I analyzed those data from a year and a half ago,” Weyand said, “we immediately concluded that there was a clear and major advantage.”

My gut feeling when all this originally broke was that the prosthetics probably do give him an advantage, but my gut feeling is also that that advantage does not outweigh the disadvantages he suffers from not having any legs and having a lower blood volume than an able bodied runner.

There is no word yet on whether he is going to be banned again from competition, but I hope not. I think that most of the research is rather limited since the sample size is of one individual, and I don’t think that anybody could show the sort of speed that he has without good training and (in his case) a lifetime to adapt to not having his legs.

(More Info: NY Times)