Who is Blake Leeper and why is he being denied chance to run in Tokyo Olympics? Can he still race at Paralympics?

BLAKE LEEPER is has been denied the chance to run at the Tokyo Olympics after his carbon fibre blades were deemed to give him a "competitive advantage."

Leeper, 31, has made a series of bids to become Nike's latest athletes to make Team USA's squad for the Tokyo Games.


Who is Blake Leeper?

Blake Leeper is an American sprinter from Kingsport, Tennessee.

Leeper was born without lower leg limbs from the knee downward and learned to walk on prosthetics since the age of nine months.

He represented Team USA at the 2012 Paralympics in London where he clinched a silver medal in the T43 400 metres and bronze in the T43 200m.

He did not compete at the 2016 Rio Paralympics because he was serving a year-long ban for a positive cocaine test.

Leeper moved into full competition against Olympic athletes at the 2017 US Track & Field Championships in 2017, becoming the first double leg amputee to do so.

It was at this event he broke Oscar Pistorious' 400m world record of 45.25 seconds, knocking 0.14sec off the South African's mark.

Why has Blake Leeper been denied the chance to run at the Olympics?

In 2020, Leeper's legal team lost a Court of Arbitration for Sport bid to get him into the Tokyo Olympics.

The CAS ruling said that his carbon fibre blades allowed him to run at a height "several inches taller" than if he were an able-bodied athlete.

Leeper's legal team said at the time that the verdict was "racially discriminatory."

In April 2021, World Athletics denied another final appeal for Leeper to compete in the one-lap event in Japan – should he have qualified at the US Olympic trials.

World Athletics heard the arguments for Leeper's inclusion in another hearing with their Mechanical Aids Review Panel.

Chairman David Grace QC said: "World Athletics has satisfied its burden of proof on the balance of probabilities that the use of the mechanical aids by Blake Leeper in the form of passive-elastic carbon-fibre running specific prostheses (RSPs) that give him a leg length of 104 centimetres and a standing height of 184 centimetres provides Blake Leeper with an overall competitive advantage over an athlete not using such aids, with the result that the use by Blake Leeper of such RPSs in any World Athletics sanctioned events is not allowed pursuant to Rule 6.3.4 of the Technical Rules of World Athletics."

The statement continued: "The decision means Mr Leeper cannot compete wearing these new RSPs at World Athletics’ major international events (WAS Events) or the Olympic Games but can in other International Competitions although his results will be listed separately and not recognised."

Why is their verdict controversial?

World Athletics uses a measurement called Maximum Allowable Standing Height (MASH) to determine whether an para-athlete's prosthetic blades are of a fair length.

That 'fair length' is based on a series of studies conducted across the world, saying it is "based on the best available evidence of body dimensions."

Leeper's lawyer Jeffrey Kessler claimed that these measures are racially discriminatory.

He said: "Data from black athletes were not even considered in these studies, as if these athletes did not exist.

"It is ironic that Blake Leeper, who has been fighting for the rights of disabled athletes of every race, now finds himself the victim of discrimination against black disabled athletes.

"We do not believe the courts will tolerate such discriminatory treatment and we will support Blake as he continues his fight to compete in the Olympics."

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