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The international governing body for track and field sports has proposed a plan to ban prosthetic devices in track and field events, asserting that disabled runners may have an advantage over competitors who are not missing limbs � a move that may conflict with American disability law. A final ruling on the proposal by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) will be made later this summer, a few days before the IAAF World Championships starts on Aug. 25 and continuing through Sep. 2 in Osaka, Japan. The exact wording of the new rule does not permit the “use of any kind of 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.” A disabled athlete, Oscar Pistorius, a 20-year-old business student from Pretoria, South Africa, who was born without the bones typically found under the knees, has expressed concern that the rule will disqualify him from competition. At the age of one, Pistorius learned to walk on “Cheetahs,” custom-made fiberglass blades. While Pistorius, his coach and the manufacturers of the devices have claimed that Pistorius is still disadvantaged when compared to able-bodied competitors, some critics disagree. Bob Hersh, an American representative to the IAAF executive council, said, “We were aware of Pistorius at the time we considered this rule. It was intended to regulate a field we had never considered before, but it is not directed at him. We could have drafted a specific rule that is targeting his specific device.” Hersh said the council has made plans to determine in the near future whether or not Pistorius’ blades provide him with an advantage over able-bodied athletes. For the time being, Pistorius is still allowed to compete because it is unclear whether or not the rule applies to him. Because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) designates rulings for each sport represented at the games to the individual sports organizations, such as the IAAF, if the ruling is passed in August, Pistorius will be banned from the Olympic games. The IOC did not return calls seeking comment. Illegal under ADA? Daniel L. Brown, an attorney with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in New York, said that if the Olympics occurred on American soil, a rule disqualifying disabled athletes would be illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The 2010 Winter Olympics will take place in Vancouver and the 2010 Summer Games are set to occur in London. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the IAAF to allow runner Butch Reynolds, who had been suspended two years earlier for illegal drug use, to participate in the American Olympic trials. The case established American jurisdiction over the IAAF, though that decision was later reversed. This established some discrepancy in jurisdiction and the dissenting opinions may open up the way for future dismissal of IAAF rulings in the U.S., Brown said. Reynolds v. International Amateur Athletics Federation, 23 F. 3d 1110 (6th Cir. 1994). Mitchell Rubinstein, an adjunct professor at St. John’s Law School and the New York Law School said that “Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires places of public accommodation to make reasonable modifications necessary to afford access to disabled persons unless doing so would fundamentally alter what is being offered.” Rubinstein said depending on whether or not the courts decided the prosthetic devices fundamentally alter the sport, this ruling might not pass in America. ‘Apples and oranges’ The ADA would also be used to solve the IAAF debate in the United States, said Bill Roe, chair of the board for USA Track and Field (USATF). “If this type of situation comes up in our organization, we look into how to conform our sport with the [ADA],” he said. Roe said USATF has a panel of appointed athletes and officials who decide whether or not the sport would be fundamentally altered. Only two incidents have passed through the committee since its implementation two years ago, though neither involved Olympic-level competition. Roe does not believe Pistorius’ request to compete in the Olympic Games has much standing. “It’s a mixing of apples and oranges,” he said. “There is no comparison between able-bodied runners and a runner using carbon fiber devices built for speed. The human foot isn’t built for speed.” Roe said a panel would have to investigate the scientific background in order to make a final decision. Brown said the Pistorius case would have to come to trial so experts could be called to determine whether or not the prostheses offer an advantage and therefore affect the competition. A disability case filed against the PGA in 2001 established the right for disabled golfer Casey Martin to ride a golf cart in between rounds at the Nike Tour and the PGA Tour. Martin suffered from Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, a circulatory disorder that obstructed blood flow between his right leg and heart. The disease causes severe pain and atrophy of the leg, in Martin’s case. Walking put him at risk for blood clots and hemorrhaging. Because he fit the ADA definition of a disabled individual, the PGA was required to accommodate his disability, after deciding that doing so did not modify the competitive nature of the sport. PGA Tour, INC. v. Martin, 204 F. 3d 994 (9th Cir. 2001). “In the decision on the Martin case, Justice Scalia says the court guarantees a future decision will be based on individual findings. This is lucrative litigation.” Brown said.

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