Double amputee Blake Leeper has launched an appeal to run at the Tokyo Olympics after he was banned from competing by World Athletics. Leeper runs with prosthetic blades and qualified for the 2019 World Championships but was not allowed to compete while his case was reviewed. He has now appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to aim to qualify for Tokyo. Paralympian Oscar Pistorius won a similar appeal in 2008.
American Leeper 30, has run the 400m in 44.3 seconds – a time fast enough to qualify for the US Olympic trials in June. Leeper has asked for an expedited hearing so that a ruling can be reached in time. “I trust in CAS to recognise that I do not have any advantage over able-bodied athletes,” said Leeper. “I just want a fair chance to compete.” Leeper, who was born without both legs below the knee, is using the same legal team that in 2008 fought successfully for Pistorius, who went on to compete at the 2012 London Olympics. However, there has been a significant shift in the way World Athletics, formerly the IAAF, reviews such cases since 2015. The burden of proof is now on the athlete to show they are competing on equal terms and hold no advantage. Leeper’s lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, said that placing the onus on Leeper to prove he does not have a competitive edge is flawed and contravenes his human rights. “Today’s appeal is the latest step in Mr Leeper’s fight for equality on behalf of all disabled athletes who have been unjustifiably prevented from competing in sporting events because of their reliance on necessary prostheses,” said Kessler. Leeper won silver in the T43 400m and bronze in the 200m at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, trailing Pistorius both times. He missed the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games because of drugs ban, after testing positive for cocaine. He currently has no classification to compete in Paralympic events.