THE MAN WHOSE nickname is "Blade

Runner" will not be allowed to compete at the Beijing Olympics.

The International Association of Athletics Federations barred double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius from the Games yesterday because the prosthetics he wears on his legs give him a competitive advantage.

The South African runner was born without fibulas and both legs were amputated between his knees and ankles when he was 11. When running, he wears prosthetics that include curved blades called "Cheetahs" that serve as feet.

According to the IAAF, the Cheetahs give Pistorius a "demonstrable mechanical advantage" over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius disputes that claim and plans to appeal. In his mind, he simply got too good at something he's not supposed to be good at.

"There's absolutely no reason why they should keep me from running," he said last month. "These prosthetics have been around for 14 years, the exact same design. There's never been an amputee to run close to my time."

Pistorius has set world records in several Paralympic events. Last year, he placed second in the 400 meters at the South African National Championships against able-bodied runners. His time of 46.90 wouldn't win an Olympic medal, but it might have earned him a spot on his country's Olympic team.

Barring a successful appeal, Pistorius will never know if he could have made the team.

It is, to be sure, an emotionally charged issue with people lined up on both sides. But, no matter how it all turns out, Pistorius should know this: He is a gutsy athlete and a tremendous role model to all. And - Olympic medal or not - he'll always be a winner.

T.O. is a joke

On Sunday, Dallas receiver Terrell Owens broke down and cried while defending his quarterback after the Cowboys lost to the Giants.

Yesterday, he was the leading candidate to win the next Democratic primary. *

- Tom Mahon

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