Pistorius complaints were wrong, says blades expert

LYMP

LYMPIAN Oscar Pistorius’s outburst after his shock London 2012 T44 200m final defeat was groundless and wrong, according to one of the world’s experts in the sporting use of prosthetic limbs.

Pistorius, who had never lost a 200m race before Sunday evening, argued that Brazilian Alan Oliveira only beat him to gold because he ran on extra-long carbon fibre blades that meant he needed fewer strides.

But Bryce Dyer of Bournemouth University, whose research specialises in amputee sprinters, told City A.M. that the South African’s complaints did not stack up and that evidence suggested Oliveira was legitimately faster.

“Basically, he was wrong,” Dyer said of Pistorius. “Three things determine speed: stride length, how quickly the leg moves, and how much force is put into the ground.

“Pistorius felt Oliveira had longer leg length, but the problem with that is that it doesn’t mean he’ll
go faster. There are several other factors involved.”

Pistorius’s claim that Oliveira needed fewer strides has been disproved by video analysis of the race, which shows the South American took 98 strides to the defending champion’s 92.

Dyer added: “If Pistorius takes fewer strides then his [stride] length is longer and Oliveira was just moving his legs faster.”

In a further twist Oliveira, 20, admitted yesterday that he increased the length of his blades by four centimetres around a month ago – legally – although he denied the move had drastically affected his pace.

“I tried the new height for the first time last year and it was difficult to get used to them,” he said. “I decided to try them again earlier this year and it went a little bit better. Three weeks ago, we decided to really go for it. The prosthesis don’t run alone. Of course they are good for an improvement but there is not a significant time difference.”

Oliveira ran 21.45 seconds in the final, beating his previous best by a second, while Pistorius, who yesterday apologised for his complaint, clocked 20.52 – 0.22 seconds outside his own world record.

Pistorius said he regretted the timing of his comments and their potential to taint “another athlete’s moment of triumph”, but added: “I do believe there is an issue here”.

The 25-year-old has been invited to discuss his reservations with the International Paralympic Committee, who admitted yesterday that Pistorius had first raised concerns earlier this year.

His defeat and complaints have reignited debate over the use of carbon fibre blades in sport, and whether amputees using them should be permitted to compete against able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius, who is likely to face Oliveira in the T44 100m and 400m finals, in 1998 overturned a ruling by world athletics governing body the IAAF preventing him from running in the Olympics.

Dyer said more research was needed and warned that the increasing number of athletes using blades, better technology and swift improvements in times meant greater clarity was needed urgently.

“The research is very inconclusive and only really focuses on running in straight lines and at a set speed; we don’t know its impact on running bends,” he said. “We don’t know the full picture but we urgently need to.”