The sprinter had both his legs amputated below the knees as a child, as a result of a birth defect. Pistorius, who’s set several world records for disabled athletes, runs with a pair of carbon fiber, J-shaped blades, called “Cheetahs,” attached to his legs. The blades are used only for competing.
Following his success in his native South Africa, including a second place finish in the 400 at the country’s national championships in 2007, the IAAF commissioned Professor Peter Brüggemann of the German Sport University in Cologne to perform a biomechanical and physiological analysis of Pistorius’ prosthetics, focusing on Pistorius’ performance in the 400 as compared to able-bodied athletes of similar skill. Pistorius cooperated in the research.
According to an IAAF statement, “Pistorius was able to run with his prosthetic blades at the same speed as the able-bodied sprinters with about 25% less energy expenditure.” Additionally, the IAAF stated that the blades were more efficient than the human ankle, adding, “the positive work, or returned energy, from the prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting.”
IAAF Rule 144.2 prohibits athletes from using technical aids, but does not specifically prohibit artificial limbs, stating in part that the rule prohibits “use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.”
Pistorius is expected to appeal the decision.