Unfair Advantage?

Disabled Long Jumper Rehm Waits for IAAF Ruling on Championship Eligibility

Leichtathletik-DM in Ulm
German champion long-jumper Markus Rehm competes in the German Athletics Championships, July 26, 2014.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Disabled athlete, Markus Rehm, has just become a German champion among non-disabled athletes. The long jumper has qualified to compete in the European Athletics Championship in August, but first the International Association of Athletics Federations has to rule on his eligibility.

  • Facts


    • Markus Rehm, an amputee long jumper who wears a prosthetic limb, has won the German Championships, competing against non-disabled athletes.
    • The IAAF is to rule on whether he should be allowed to compete at the European Championships.
    • They will base the decision on an analysis of his jumps, which looks at whether the limb constitutes a form of performance enhancement.
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Markus Rehm emitted a loud yell, and then the long jumper hugged his coach, Steffi Nerius. She was just as flabbergasted as he was about the number that had just appeared on the display board: 8.24 meters.

Rehm had not only bested his previous world record by 29 centimeters, but he had also exceeded the qualifying threshold for the European Championships by 19 centimeters. But the quantum leap now presents officials at the German Athletics Association with a new problem. Mr. Rehm, an amputee, jumps with a spring-like prosthesis on his right leg, and the question is whether it provides him with an unfair advantage.

Officials are currently awaiting the results of an analysis, which will determine whether Mr. Rehm will qualify for the European Championships in Zurich next month. Experts are focusing on the long jumper’s approach velocity, which some note is too slow to achieve such a long distance and indicates he got help from the prosthesis.

Shortly after the amputee’s win, the national athletics association,  known by its German acronym DLV, said it would shift the responsibility for the decision of whether Mr. Rehm can participate at the European Championships or not. It said the International Association of Athletics Federations, or IAAF, would have to make that call.

An IAAF spokesman told Handelsblatt Global Edition that the group’s technical experts will address Mr. Rehm’s eligibility, but they have been preoccupied with the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon and have been traveling since Mr. Rehm’s win last Sunday.

The DLV had previously approved his qualification for the German Championships, which took place last weekend in the southern city of Ulm, by with reservations. After Mr. Rehm’s win, the association faced the question of whether it should also nominate Mr. Rehm for the European Championships – and whether the European umbrella organization will even accept the nomination.

Before the Ulm contest Mr. Rehm, a native of the western German city of Leverkusen, had believed that increasing his best performance by 10 centimeters was realistic.

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