Briton Stef Reid welcomes the debate around the use of prosthetic running blades in athletics, but believes the wrong question is being asked.
The IAAF has established a working group to determine whether or not amputee long jumper Markus Rehm can compete in the Olympics this summer.
The German leapt 8.40 metres to win the IPC Athletics World Championships title in Doha last October. Greg Rutherford’s London 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning mark was 8.35m.
Rehm is bidding to compete in August’s Rio Olympics and then September’s Paralympics, but will only be permitted to do so if he can prove his prosthetic limb does not give him an unfair advantage.
Reid said: “They keep asking the question: is this an advantage of a disadvantage? To me, that’s the wrong question.
“The idea that he has an advantage is ridiculous. However, we do have to look at whether or not the performances are comparable.
“If, for example, the data comes back and says Markus is at an advantage, people interpret that as he’s sat on a couch for six years, strapped on a blade and started flying. I can assure you that is not the case.
“The question we need to be asking is ‘is this performance comparable?’ That is a very different question.”
Reid won silver in the T44 long jump at the London 2012 Paralympics and defends her European title in Grosseto, Italy in June.
She recognises she needs to jump further than six metres to be considered a full part of the debate. Her personal best is 5.47m.
Rehm’s take-off ‘foot’ is his blade, but there are complications with using a prosthesis, too.
Reid pointed out she had only just returning from eight weeks out due to a pressure sore where her leg meets her prosthetic limb.
“The whole debate is incredibly exciting,” she added.
“I’m not a biomechanist – and that is where this debate needs to start. We need to look at it from a scientific perspective.
“I’m not convinced data from one athlete is going to be conclusive. That’s part of the problem.
“Markus and I have an incredibly similar story – we were both hit by motorboats in our mid-teens and that’s where we lost our legs.
“Markus was a wake-boarder beforehand. I played rugby and while I didn’t do athletics, I did run.
“People say things like it’s easier – I can assure you it is not easier. It’s incredibly difficult to learn to run with a blade.
“If you’re a bad runner before you become an amputee, you’re going to be an even worse runner when you run with a blade.
“I accept it may be a different skill-set required, science needs to look at this.
“It’s really upsetting when people interpret it as ‘oh, it must be really easy’.”
Reid had a prolapsed disc last season and did not compete, but she has lofty goals for 2016, including going one better than she did in London four years ago.
She added: “I am going in there with the intent to win gold and I think I can do it.
“(But) all I can do is jump the best that I can jump. I could improve by half a metre, but if someone else jumps further than that, I’m not going to walk away disappointed.”
:: Nissan is the official automotive partner of ParalympicsGB and proud to support Stef Reid on her Road to Rio. Find out how Nissan is helping bring the nation to the heart of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at www.betheheartbeat.com