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Court of Arbitration for Sport decision in case concerning use of prosthetic running aids by amputee athlete

Related Member(s):
Edward Craven
Related Practice Area(s):
Sports Law

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has delivered its decision in the case of Blake Leeper v World Athletics (formerly the International Association of Athletics Federations), which concerns the validity and application of a rule regulating the use of mechanical running aids in elite international athletics.  The CAS Panel held that the rule is unlawful and invalid to the extent that it places the burden of proof upon an athlete who wishes use a mechanical aid to establish that the use of that aid will not provide him/her with an overall competitive advantage over an athlete not using such an aid.

Accordingly, the Panel concluded that World Athletics bore the burden of establishing on a balance of probabilities that Mr Leeper (a bilateral amputee sprinter) derived an overall competitive advantage from the use of particular running-specific prostheses. Having reviewed the evidence, the Panel went on to conclude that the running-specific prostheses used by Mr Leeper indeed gave him an overall competitive advantage in the 400m event over an athlete not using such a mechanical aid, since they enabled him to run at a height that was several inches taller than his maximum possible height if he had intact biological legs.  Accordingly, the Panel ruled that Blake Leeper may not use his particular running-specific prostheses at World Athletics-sanctioned 400m events, including the Olympic Games.

Edward Craven acted as the ad hoc clerk to the CAS Panel throughout the proceedings.

A summary of the CAS decision is available here.  A New York Times report about the decision is available here.