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Runner Told His Height Will Keep Him Out of Olympics

Blake Leeper's prosthetic legs are the issue
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2021 9:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – Blake Leeper's height could keep him out of the Tokyo Olympics. The New York Times has the story of the runner, who was born without legs below the knee and in 2012 decided to make the switch from competing against athletes who are disabled to ones who are not; in 2019 he finished fifth in the 400-meters event at the US track and field championships. At issue now are the blades that he runs on. After five years of running on one size, he was forced to downsize about 2 inches in order to try to gain access to June's Olympic trials. But on Monday, World Athletics ruled that the shorter blades still gave him an unfair edge. They based their decision on reports that concluded the blades made the 31-year-old taller than he would have been had he been born with legs, and that he therefore managed to run 400 meters faster than he would have naturally been capable of, reports CNN.

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Leeper's counterargument is that the research used to calculate the probable height of double-amputees involved only Caucasian and Asian athletes and was therefore discriminatory. He referenced other studies indicating people with African ancestry can have longer legs. By World Athletics' numbers, Leeper's torso size suggests he would be 5-foot-9, and the rejected blades make him about 6 feet—"roughly the average height of other top 400-meter runners, many of whom have short torsos and long legs. Leeper’s blades compress when he runs, just as the legs of a non-disabled runner do," notes the Times. The Washington Post reports the ruling means Leeper cannot use his current blades at World Athletics events or the Olympics, and any other international events he competes in would not result in an official time. Leeper has said that getting an even shorter set of blades would require him to learn how to run all over again. He can appeal the decision. (Read more Tokyo Olympics stories.)

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