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Now, what our research is saying is not that [the IAAF study’s] data are flawed, but that it is the interpretation of the data we found questionable. The burden of proof is with the IAAF. If they want to ban Oscar and perhaps all amputees that use Cheetah prostheses, they need to show scientifically that it does show an overall advantage in the 400 meter race. Our point is that this is an important matter, and one needs to be very careful with the science. Therefore, there needs to be a high level of certainty of what biomechanically and energetically is going on in terms of the prosthetic effect. Brüggemann did a select set of experiments, and with that data, he did make certain scientific claims that we don’t agree with. We don’t agree with this interpretation of the data, but then beyond that, the IAAF made a much broader statement. They said that Pistorius has an overall advantage in the 400 meter race.

TR: Did your research team conduct any further studies to show either that the IAAF’s scientific evaluation was flawed or that Pistorius does not have an advantage?

HH: We did one measure that was not directly related to the claims made by the IAAF. If you take a sprint athlete, and at a particular running speed you measure the time duration they can maintain that speed, and then you change the speed and measure the new time duration and so on, you get a speed-duration curve. At really, really fast speeds, the person can take, like, 10 steps and maintain that speed for a short duration. As you lower the speed, the duration gets longer and longer. Sprint athletes with intact limbs all fall on a very standard line. We thought if Oscar is artificially augmented, he would not fall on that speed-duration curve. We did the test, and he falls right on the curve, which is an indication that he fatigues in the same manner as able-bodied sprinters.

TR: What are the broader implications of the CAS ruling?

HH: Oscar will be given the opportunity to qualify for IAAF-sanctioned events. But broadly, it will be progress in the overall initiative to fully integrate people with disabilities in society. Some people in the world witness an extraordinary athlete that has artificial legs or arms … and they immediately think that cannot be so–disabled people cannot be this good at something. It never occurs to some people that Oscar may be a remarkable athlete. They think he has to be cheating.

There is so much to learn about how the human body works and, in addition, how the body is affected by a wearable device, like a shoe or prosthesis. The day that there is a prosthesis that outperforms an intact limb using any single metric–whether it is to jump high or to manipulate something–will indeed be a very exciting day.

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Credit: MIT Media Lab

Tagged: Biomedicine, prostheses, Olympics, amputee, Cheetah blades, Ossur, Oscar Pistorius

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