I previously wrote (here and here) about Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic hopeful who was ruled ineligible to compete in the Beijing Games by the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) because he uses Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetic legs. With help from Dewey & LeBoeuf (disclosure: my previous employer) as his pro bono counsel, Pistorius recently challenged the IAAF’s ruling in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
On Friday, a three-person arbitration panel ruled in Pistorius’s favor, finding that Pistorius’s prosthetics do not provide him with “an overall net advantage” in violation of IAAF Rule 144.2(e). This opens the door for Pistorius to compete in South Africa’s Olympic trials using his prosthetics. The panel reserved the right to change its ruling if new scientific evidence emerges.
With this matter resolved for now, let’s take a look at the big winners and losers from the litigation:
Oscar Pistorius: Finally eligible for South Africa’s Olympic trials, the Blade Runner is a step closer to competing against the world’s finest. In addition, he is also a step closer to earning the kind of endorsement dollars that would make even Dan & Dave envious.
Ossur HF Company: The Iceland-headquartered supplier of the Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetics is gaining all kinds of free publicity. Most of us have now heard of the Cheetah Flex-Foot. Can anybody name a competitor prosthetic? I didn’t think so.
Dewey & LeBoeuf: Forget the goodwill that comes with pro bono representation. By winning this case, Dewey & LeBoeuf has expanded its sports-law footprint across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as opened the door to secure new business in international sports arbitration.
Debevoise & Plimpton: Real kudos goes to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for their gutsy and articulate 18-page decision that does not pull its punches with the IAAF. David W. Rivkin, a partner in the New York and London offices of Debevoise & Plimpton, was one of the three named arbitrators in this dispute. His work could only look good for the firm.
Read the rest, after the jump.
The Biggest Loser
IAAF: Not only did the arbitration panel rule against the IAAF, but the panel’s opinion made the association look as foolish as Craig Ehlo trying to guard Michael Jordan. The panel found the IAAF rule banning Pistorius was “a masterpiece of ambiguity” and procedurally “off the rails.” It also called into question many of the IAAF’s specific decisions, including (1) to vote on Pistorius’s eligibility over a single weekend, (2) to count abstention votes as votes against Pistorius, (3) to tell the press that Pistorius would be banned even before voting occurred, (4) to ask scientific experts to test Pistorius’s performance only in straight parts of the run, and (5) to ask scientific experts to analyze advantages, but not disadvantages, of Pistorius’s prosthetics.
The Jury’s Still Out
DLA Piper: To quote Rosie Perez’s character from the hit 1992 movie White Men Can’t Jump, “sometimes when you lose, you really win.” DLA Piper represented the IAAF in this matter and lost the case. However, between representing the IAAF here and working on Baseball’s Mitchell Report last December (George Mitchell is a partner at DLA Piper), the international law firm is positioning itself to grow its sports practice.
South Africa Tourist Bureau: Most human interest stories about Pistorius seem to describe South Africa in a positive light. This may help tourism. At least, it certainly can’t hurt.
2008 Olympic Broadcasters and Sponsors: While Pistorius still has to improve his time to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, one can expect a ratings boom if he ultimately qualifies. This story has great human interest appeal. (Heck, we’ve covered it three times, and some of our readers don’t even like people).
Olympic Dream Stays Alive, on Synthetic Legs [New York Times]
Double-Amputee Pistorius Wins Right to Run with Cheetahs; Most Offensive Metaphor in a Disability Case Ever? [Sports Law Blog]
Earlier: Sports and the Law: Oscar Pistorius’s Claim has Strong Legs to Stand On
Sports and the Law: From Pistorius to the More Ridiculous, Disabled Athletes Seek New Rights
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Marc Edelman is an attorney, business consultant, published author and professor, whose focus is on the fields of sports business and law. You can read his full bio by clicking here, and you can reach him by email by clicking here.