Having spent years fighting for the right to race in open competition on his blades, Oscar Pistorius is now complaining about a rival’s artificial limbs after a stunning loss at the London Paralympics on Sunday.
The “Blade Runner” had never been beaten over 200m in Paralympic competition until Brazilian sprinter Alan Oliveira overtook him in the home straight to win by 0.07 seconds.
The icon of the Paralympics had been dethroned and was not taking it lightly.
Pistorius immediately raised concerns with Paralympic officials that Oliveira’s surge came through long, rule-bending blades.
Pistorius, who won a legal battle to compete wearing carbon-fiber blades alongside able-bodied runners at the Olympics last month, suggested that Oliveira ran with longer prosthesis than should be allowed.
Oliveira won in 21.45 seconds after overtaking Pistorius at the line at Olympic Stadium in the T44 classification race in front of a capacity 80,000-strong crowd.
“Not taking away from Alan’s performance — he’s a great athlete — but these guys are a lot taller and you can’t compete [with the] stride length,” Pistorius said in a broadcast interview. “You saw how far he came back. We aren’t racing a fair race. I gave it my best. The IPC [International Paralympic Committee] have their regulations. The regulations [allow] that athletes can make themselves unbelievably high.”
“We’ve tried to address the issue with them in the weeks up to this and it’s just been falling on deaf ears,” Pistorius said.
While Pistorius tried to be more magnanimous later, he still claimed it was “ridiculous” that Oliveira could win after being 8m adrift at the 100m mark and deny him a third straight 200m gold.
“He’s never run a 21-second race and I don’t think he’s a 21-second athlete,” Pistorius said. “I’ve never lost a 200-meter race in my career.”
Pistorius was more circumspect in a statement released yesterday through his management, apologizing for the timing of his outburst and saying: “I would never want to detract from another athletes’ moment of triumph.”
“I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss it with the IPC, but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong,” the South African double amputee said. “That was Alan’s moment and I would like to put on record the respect I have for him.”
Oliveira insisted he had not broken the rules, and expressed disappointment with the Sunday criticism.
“He is a really great idol, and to listen to that coming from a really great athlete is really difficult,” Oliveira said through a translator. “I don’t know who he’s picking a fight with, it’s not with me.”
The 20-year-old Oliveira was backed by Paralympic leaders.
“There is a rule in place regarding the length of the blades, which is determined by a formula based on the height and dynamics of the athlete,” the IPC said in a statement. “All athletes were measured today prior to competition by a classifier and all were approved for competition.”
Paralympic officials, including the top medical official, agreed to meet with Pistorius after the race.
Pistorius had the support of compatriot Arnu Fourie, who finished fourth and questioned Oliveira’s lengthened blades.
“Ask anyone out there — Does it look out of proportion?” Fourie said on Sunday. “I think 99 percent of people are going to tell you: ‘Yes it does.’”