Oscar Pistorius: Within His Right?

By Busse, Sean; Enos, Michelle et al. | Palaestra, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview
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Oscar Pistorius: Within His Right?

Busse, Sean, Enos, Michelle, Davis, Ronald, Megginson, Nancy, Palaestra

After being deemed ineligible from the 2008 Beijing Olympic games for having a mechanical advantage, Oscar Pistorius became an instant Paralympic sensation winning gold medals in the 100 m, 200 m, and 400 m T-44 class at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic games (IPC, 2008). Pistorius spent the next four years training for the 2012 London Olympic/Paralympic games. Finally, after much speculation, he was given the green light to enter Olympic competition in the Men's 400 m individual race, and the 4X400 m relay. Then, two weeks removed from making history as the first Paralympic athlete to compete in the Summer Olympic Games, he set a world record in the Men's T-44 200 m qualifying race with a time of 21.30 s at the 2012 London Paralympics (London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Limited Official Results Book Athletics 3-12 August). Two days later in the final for the 200 m, Pistorius lost his first Paralympic competition in four years, finishing hundredths of a second behind Brazil's Alan Oliveria who won gold. Disappointed and frustrated, Pistorius held an impromptu press conference.

Pistorius went directly to reporters complaining that the athlete from Brazil, a T-43 athlete, had a stride length advantage due to the increased length of his artificial limbs. The next day a formal press conference was held by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), where it was revealed that Pistorius had met with the IPC six weeks prior to competition to voice his concern of stride length in the T-43/44 classification; his concern went unattended at the time.

The IPC officials confirmed, according to current classification criteria, the runner from Brazil did not violate any rules, and competed fairly in the event (IPC, 2012). However, officials then reported Pistorius filed a protest, citing the same complaint of stride length previously mentioned. After the race another meeting was scheduled to address this issue, following completion of the Games. This controversy has created a black cloud surrounding the Paralympic icon, leaving many to believe he is a "poor sport". What must be understood is Pistorius was not the sore loser; he actually followed the rules. However, announcing his disappointment, and complaint, immediately following the race at his impromptu press conference may have given the wrong impression. So, before labeling Pistorius a sore loser, don't; he was simply exercising his right of "due process," established within the classification process.


The Classification Process and Due Process

Classification is thought of as an evaluation process of an athlete's functional ability, and performance of athletic skill (i.e., throwing a shot, running gait of a race). Due process provides opportunity to contest the original ruling on an athlete's classification. To contest such a ruling an athlete may file a protest against another athlete, based on a suspected violation of rules, or classification level. Furthermore, an athlete may contest the actual procedure, and/or evaluation in which classification was conducted, called an "appeal". Once athletes are classified for their competition events they are moved into one of three status levels; confirmed, reviewed, or new. The following is a brief explanation of each status:

Confirmed (C): Athletes within this status have been classified according to IPC rules in their relevant sport, and are no longer under the review process. These athletes are no longer classified at the Paralympic Games, because their functional performances, due to their disabilities, have not affected their athletic performances (International Paralympic Committee).

Reviewed (R): Athletes in the "R" status have been classified according to IPC rules in their relevant sports, but could still be reviewed prior to a new competition. The reason for this review could likely be due to the nature of the athlete's disability.

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