(CBS Los Angeles) – One of the fastest men on the planet — who was born with no legs, but has shattered records in the U.S. and around the world — is in a legal battle to compete in the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
31-year-old Blake Leeper recently qualified for the Olympics, only to be disqualified by an international track and field committee which thinks his prosthetic legs could be giving him an advantage. Now his case is caught up in the higher courts.
“I always say that my adversity is my advantage,” Leeper told CBS2’s DeMarco Morgan while training at Woodley Park in Van Nuys.
The double amputee is an eight-time Paralympics competitor. In 2019, Leeper was ranked the sixth fastest man in the world.
“The fact that I was born less than, the fact that I had to learn how to fight at an early age has really taught me how strong I can truly be,” Leeper said.
Leeper spends most of his time training at Woodley, along with other parks and stadiums throughout Southern California.
“The only true disability in life is a bad attitude,” he said.
His chance to vie for gold on what is perhaps the world’s biggest stage has come to a screeching halt. Leeper has been barred from participating in the Tokyo Olympics because his prosthetic legs are said to give him an advantage over able-bodied athletes. The decision came down from the former International Association of Athletics Federations, now known as World Athletics, the governing body for track and field.
Leeper said officials claim his prosthetic limbs make him taller — based on height restrictions which are only in place for disabled athletes, and not able-bodied ones – and possibly faster.
“You just don’t put equipment on,” Leeper said. “You just don’t put running blades on and go out there and break world records. You have to put in the time and the energy and the sacrifice. And for me to get there and they say, ‘wait, wait, wait, you’re running fast. You’re running too fast than our expectations of a disabled man. And because you’re running too fast, we feel like it’s unfair.’”
CBS2 reached out to World Athletics and is awaiting comment.
Leeper’s attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, is the same attorney who represented South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, who was allowed to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
“To be honest with you DeMarco, it hurts, because my whole life being born disabled, being born different, I’ve always been told that I’ve been born different,” Leeper said. “Yes, I am different. Yes, I don’t look like the typical runner, your average runner, but I got the same heart and the same dedication and the same determination as your Olympic gold medalist. But the only thing they’re saying is, ‘it’s not right because you’re disabled.’”