COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Paralympic long jump champion Markus Rehm is still hoping to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro despite a scientific study’s inconclusive findings on whether his carbon-fiber prosthesis gives him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes.
Wolfgang Potthast of the German Sport University in Cologne said Monday that it was “difficult if not impossible” to determine whether the 27-year-old Rehm gets an advantage or not.
The study conducted by the German Sport University along with the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo found that athletes with a running-specific prosthesis have an impaired ability in the run up but a better technique for the long jump, leaving open the question of whether a prosthesis helps or hinders the athlete.
“The study could not identify any advantage through the prosthesis, and I think that for me is a good result,” said Rehm, who is hoping to compete both at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August and at the following Paralympics.
“I want to bring the Paralympic and Olympic sport closer together. To give both sides the chance to profit from this.”
Rehm is aiming to be the second athlete with a carbon-fiber prosthesis to compete at the Olympics and Paralympics after South African runner Oscar Pistorius in 2012.
To become eligible under a new rule introduced last year by the IAAF, Rehm has to prove that his prosthesis gives him no advantage over athletes with a similar disability or non-amputee long jumpers.
“I’ve taken the first step with the study, so now I await a step in return from the world body,” said Rehm, who lost his lower right leg in a wakeboarding accident when he was 14.
Rehm won the gold medal at 2012 London Paralympics and holds the world record in his competition class at 8.40 meters. Rehm also won the German national title in 2014 over non-amputee athletes, drawing a mixed reaction.
He was then prevented from competing for the German team at the European Championships, with track and field officials saying the prosthesis could give him an unfair catapult effect.
“Since the German championship in 2014 it has been an ordeal. It’s difficult for me to hear these charges [of having an advantage]. I don’t want to have any advantage. On the other hand, you feel you have to apologize to other athletes,” Rehm said. “There were times when I asked myself if it was worth it.”
Under current rules, Rehm is not eligible for the German team.
“There is no finding that has found an advantage,” Friedhelm Julius Beucher, president of the German National Paralympic Committee, said reacting to the study. “It’s not a question of fairness but a case of discrimination.”
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