Earlier today, the DLV, the German athletics federation, announced they had decided not to include Paralympic long jumper Markus Rehm on the national team scheduled to compete at the European Athletics Championships 2014 starting in about two weeks. Instead, they are taking Christian Reif, Sebastian Bayer and Julian Howard. DLV has also indicated they will seek additional information from International Association of Athletics Federations about the rules for including athletes with disabilities in able-bodied competitions.
This past weekend, Rehm set a world record in the F44 long jump, with a jump of 8.24 meters on his fourth attempt, at the German national championships. Rehm was the first amputee to compete at the competition, and if he had both his legs, he would likely would have been chosen by the team. While Rehm finished first in the event, Bayer who is going finished fifth.
In response to the decision, ESPN quotes Rehm as saying, “I find it a pity and disappointing” and that he is considering an appeal of the decision. Earlier, prior to the decision being made, he had said he would not. He posted a more detailed response to the news on his Facebook page, saying:
First, I’m obviously a little disappointed with the decision. Sure I would like to start in Zurich and be measured alongside the best jumpers in Europe. I also understand the dilemma in which the DLV face and therefore I have said before that I will accept the decision regarding the EM nomination, no matter how this turns out. However, it is clear to everyone that the rudimentary investigation in Ulm can not be the basis for a final decision . So I’m going to gather as much scientifically reliable data as soon as I possibly can with the data for the whole way, for the long jump includes not only the jump but also the start.
I congratulated heartily all nominated athletes and wish further a good and injury-free preparation for the European Championships. In particular, I am of course also for Christian Reif and Julian Howard who have given me a great competition in Ulm and are great personalities for me. # WirfuerD
DLV President Clemens Prokop is on the record as having said that there is a difference in how Rehm jumps compared to able-bodied athletes. He is quoted by ESPN as saying, “There is significant doubt that jumps with a leg prosthesis and a natural joint are comparable.”
Deutsche Behindertensportverband (DBS) Vice President-performance sports Karl Quade is quoted as saying in response to the decision, “I wish the DVL had been more courageous. […] I am not sure you can draw a valid conclusion that Markus Rehm had an advantage.”
German Olympic Committee President Alfons Hoermann is quoted as saying, “It’s a bitter personal disappointment for Markus Rehm. He made history last weekend with his outstanding performance.”
Rehm competed at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, where he also set a world record in the long jump with a 7.35 meter jump for 1,093 points. He won a gold medal in the process, adding to the bronze he won in the 1 x 400 meter relay event. Rehm is the current Paralympic world champion in his classification, having won gold at the 2011 and 2013 competitions. He competes for TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Outside of sport, Rehm works as a master orthopedic technician. He lost his lower right leg in a wakeboarding accident.
The situation mirrors similar controversies involving Oscar Pistorius, who sought inclusion and was eventually allowed to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics. DSHS, who did the testing for Rehm, also did the testing for Pistorius in 2007. Brueggemann now asserts that the data around potential competitive advantage for Pistorius was never conclusive. The testing for Pistorius swayed South African courts who said if he qualified, he should be eligible to compete alongside able-bodied competitors.
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