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Debate over the rule for limiting height for Paralympic sprinters

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

I found this debate very interesting as I have recently watched a programme regarding Oscar Pistorius. The programme highlighted his struggles with the IAAF in terms of having Paralympic athletes cross over to Olympic sport. The programme focused on the studies that were completed by sport scientists which proved that prosthetics gave paralympians an unfair advantage over non-disabled Olympians.

The current IOC guidelines for paralympians that use prosthetic legs or blades during competitions, are based on the assumption that the taller you are, the faster you will run. There is a restriction stating the maximum allowed height to prevent unfair advantage.

Some athletes have had to lower their standing height due to this regulation. For example, Blake Leeper who is a double-below the knee amputee who states his height is 5'10, yet has to lower his standing height to 5'6.

However, new scientific research has proven that height makes no difference to speed.

Alena Grabowski (an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology) began a scientific study into if the taller you are- the faster you run. 5 elite sprinters with double below-the- knee amputations were experimented on through a series of trials on a treadmill. The runners used 15 different combinations of stiffness and height to reveal how the runner's bio-mechanics and pace changed with the different blades.

From this study, the conclusion was made that stiffness and height of the blade made no difference in the maximum speed the athletes reached. This is due to although with longer legs you take longer strides, you cycle your legs slower- which equals out the added length the longer blades give the athlete.

The Paralympic committee is further researching this issue and may reconsider the height restriction due to these new findings.

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