Leading sports scientist, Dr Ross Tucker, isn’t alone in stating Oscar simply wasn’t fast enough on Sunday night after his defeat in the T44/43 200m final that ended in controversy.
Tucker is amongst those that have come forward to say that the Brazilian Blade Runner Alan Oliveira did not gain an unfair advantage over Oscar Pistorius at the Paralympics on Sunday night.
Tucker, a research associate in exercise science and sports medicine at the University of Cape Town, on Monday posted an article on his Science of Sport website contradicting Pistorius’s assertion.
In it, Tucker analysed the steps taken by Pistorius and Oliveira, amongst other things, and he said:
Pistorius took 92 steps during the race [2,2m per stride], and Oliveira took 98 steps to win gold (2,0m per stride). A simple count shows that Pistorius has longer strides than Oliveira, and they are consistently longer. Oliveira’s faster speed, then, is the result of faster leg movement.
Peter Van Der Vliet, the International Paralympic Committee’s medical and scientific director, defended their policy on artificial running blades, but admitted admitted that the rules may still need to be looked at.
Yesterday, Pistorius issued an apology for his post-race outburst but made sure he took the opportunity to say that the IPC rules were an “issue”:
I would never want to detract from another athletes’ moment of triumph and I want to apologise for the timing of my comments after yesterday’s race. I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the IPC but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong.
But Tucker opened the debate further:
It’s unusual, certainly, for a leader to be reeled in that strongly, but it’s the kind of finish that has carried Pistorius to a few gold medals in his time – I remember a Commonwealth 100m race where he gave up about 5m (0,5s at that speed) in a 100m race and still won. Today was no different, so the claim that you can’t win from behind is equally misguided.
The bottom line is that whatever the rules of prosthetic limbs, if Oliveira is within them (and we have good reason to think that he is, given his compliance with the IPC and even Pistorius’ accusation is not that he is cheating, but that the rules are wrong), it just re-introduces the same debate – how do we know, with 100% certainty, that we are not seeing the result of some technological battle?
The answer is that we can’t. The leg length issue is an ‘advantage’ that Pistorius has always had, and we’ve been watching him compete for years not knowing if he’s done the exact same thing as he is now accusing Oliveira of. Remember, the leg:arm ratio is a flawed way to establish these boundaries for elite athletes.
And it does beg the question – why does Pistorius not just push his length up to the limit if the rules allow it? If Pistorius is below whatever limit exists for leg length, then he should just increase his length and run a 44s 400m in 2013. Or, if Pistorius is already there (which I strongly suspect, given the R&D backing he has), then all we’ve seen tonight is that Oliveira has corrected his length and managed to create an equal race with Pistorius.
The bigger issue is that of technology. The advantage for Oliveira tonight was NOT his stride length, despite Pistorius’ claims. The advantage was stride rate. And remember, this is the factor that Peter Weyand concluded gave Oscar Pistorius an enormous advantage over able-bodied runners who simply cannot move their limbs at the same rate, because Pistorius was able to achieve leg repositioning times that no able-bodied human ever could. That advantage is still in play, except now we have another runner who is benefitting from it, and possibly exploiting it even better than Pistorius.
Pistorius will now meet with Craig Spence, communications director of the IPC, to resolve the issue.
You can read Tucker’s full explanation HERE.
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