Champion amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius can compete against the world's best able-bodied athletes while researchers try to determine whether his prosthetics give him an unfair advantage, a spokesman for the international track authority said on Friday.
But Nick Davies, spokesman for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said discussion of Pistorius competing in the Olympics was premature, noting the 20-year-old sprinter had not yet achieved the kind of times that would allow him to qualify.
"Oscar can compete. No one can stop him running," Davies said.
In March, the IAAF introduced a new rule banning any runner deemed to benefit from artificial help from competing. That had widely been interpreted as scuttling Pistorius' hopes of being the first disabled runner to compete in the Olympic Games, with his sights set on Beijing next year.
"They have changed their stance," Van Zyl said. "This is a totally different stance from when they introduced the rule change."
Van Zyl said he now had to get Pistorius into "tiptop" shape for his international debut.
The 20-year-old Pistorius was born without fibula bones in his lower legs and was only 11 months old when the limbs were amputated from below the knee.
He has been dubbed "Blade Runner" because of the shape of the feet at the end of his carbon fiber legs and "the fastest man on no legs."
"I want to go forward and I can't if I have to compete only at a local level. The way to go forward is by running against people faster than me," Pistorius said in an interview on Thursday.
Davies said the March rule had been misinterpreted. It prohibits the "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." It was aimed at sophisticated gadgets manufacturers add to the shoes of top athletes.
Banning Pistorius "was never the purpose of the rule. It was never the intention. It would have been unfair," Davies said.
Davies said the new development was that the organization was going to take it upon itself to work with Pistorius to conduct scientific research and tests on the runner and his prosthetics. Davies said one of the aims was developing criteria on prosthetics and other aides.
"We need to establish the facts and we want to do this together. We have nothing against disabled athletes, on the contrary, but we need to be fair," Davies said, saying Pistorius's case was taking the federation into new and unfamiliar territory.
"This issue is so new. Oscar is an exceptional athlete, maybe unique. He is on the very edge of disabled and able-bodied sports. No one else has ever done that, that is why we are in the dark," Davies said.
Pistorius is adamant his blades give him no advantage or extra energy and that his stride is no longer than anyone else's.
"They are passive devices. If anything I am at more of a disadvantage. I have no ankles. There is less blood flowing through my body. I have no calf muscles so I have to use more muscles to do what they would," he said. "These exact feet have been used for 14 years and there has never been a paralympic sprinter to run my times."
Pistorius has clocked 10.91 seconds in the 100m, 21.58 seconds in the 200 and 46.56 seconds in the 400. Those are world records for disabled athletes, and he finished second in the 400m at the South African Championships -- the able-bodied meet -- in March.