German federation drops amputee jumper from Euro team, citing unfair advantage
JUL 30, 2014 10:15a ET
FRANKFURT, Germany -- Germany excluded an amputee long jumper from its team for the European Athletics Championships on Wednesday, saying the athlete's carbon-fiber prosthesis gives him an unfair advantage.
Paralympic champion Markus Rehm won the long jump at the German nationals last weekend with an effort of 8.24 meters (27 feet, 1/2 inch). As German champion, that would normally qualify him for the Aug. 12-17 Euros in Zurich.
But the German athletics federation, known as the DLV, dropped him from the team.
''I find it a pity and disappointing,'' said Rehm, adding that he was considering appealing.
The case has parallels to that of Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee South African runner who went to court to win the right to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
DLV president Clemens Prokop said there was a ''significant difference'' between jumps with a blade-like prosthesis and natural jumps in the run-up and liftoff.
''There is significant doubt that jumps with a leg prosthesis and a natural joint are comparable,'' Prokop said in explaining the decision to drop Rehm.
Prokop said biometric measurements conducted at the nationals in Ulm showed that Rehm's prosthesis might give him an unfair ''catapult effect'' that allows him longer jumps. He was also faster by a second per meter at takeoff.
Other experts and Rehm have questioned the measuring method.
The German federation of disabled sport said the decision was a ''step backward'' in efforts to bring equality between disabled and able-bodied athletes.
''I wish the DVL had been more courageous,'' said Karl Quade, vice president of the disabled sports association, adding that the measurements during the championship were ''not a solid base.''
''I am not sure you can draw a valid conclusion that Markus Rehm had an advantage,'' Quade said.
Christian Reif, who finished second at the nationals, said of Rehm: ''Advantage or no advantage, you are a winner for me because you showed everyone what athletes with a disability are capable of.''
Alfons Hoermann, president of the German Olympic Committee, said it was a difficult decision for the athletics federation.
''It's a bitter personal disappointment for Markus Rehm. He made history last weekend with his outstanding performance,' Hoermann said.
He said the decision was just the beginning of a general discussion on whether disabled athletes should compete in regular competitions.
Prokop, the athletics federation president, said ''worldwide rules'' were needed and that he would ask the IAAF to look into the issue.
Rehm, whose right leg was amputated below the knee, could appeal the decision to the DLV's own arbitration commission or go to a regular court.
Pistorius waged a four-year battle to win eligibility to compete in the Olympics. The IAAF banned him from running in its events on grounds that his carbon-fiber blades gave him an unfair advantage, but he won a court case in 2008 that allowed him to compete. He ran in the 400 and 4x400 relay at the 2011 world championships and 2012 London Games.
Pistorius is now on trial in South Africa for murder after he fatally shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013. The trial is on a break ahead of closing arguments on Aug. 7-8.