The Work

July 17, 2008 2:50 PM

PRO BONO: Dewey & LeBoeuf's Olympic Battle

Posted by Brian Baxter


UPDATE: Oscar Pistorius was not named to the South African 400-meter relay team. As a result, he will not be participating in the Beijing Olympic Games.

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius--who failed to qualify in the 400-meter dash for the Beijing Olympics--now is threatening legal action over comments made by officials from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) about him.

The move came on Wednesday in a letter to IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss, signed by Pistorius's pro bono counsel at Dewey & LeBeouf. It rips into IAAF officials for suggesting that Pistorius not be included on the South African relay team "for reasons of safety."

While Pistorius post a personal best time in the 400-meter qualifying race in Lucerne, Switzerland, he failed to meet the standard necessary to qualify for Beijing. But the Johannesburg native's Olympic hopes still are alive: the South African Olympic Committee could name him to its 400-meter relay team.

Pistorius--who runs with the aid of two prosthetic limbs--was banned by the IAAF from competing against able-bodied athletes in January. Represented by a D&L legal team led by global litigation cochair Jeffrey Kessler, Pistorius successfully appealed the IAAF's ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, opening the way for a chance to go to Beijing.

The firm has committed more than 2020 pro bono hours to the case since it began representing Pistorius in February.

Now, Pistorius and his lawyers say IAAF officials are contradicting the CAS ruling by pressuring South Africa not to include him on its relay team in statements to the press. Weiss and IAAF communications director Nick Davies have expressed concern to reporters that Pistorius might fall and either injure himself or other athletes when running as part of a pack during the relay.

"Any statement that the IAAF would prefer that Mr. Pistorius not be selected for the South African Olympic team for reasons related to his prosthetics is contrary [to the CAS ruling]," writes D&L corporate partner Marco Consonni in the letter to the IAAF. "We believe the IAAF is obligated to immediately advise the South African Federation and Olympic Committee that it has no objection to Mr. Pistorius competing in the 4x400 relay at the Beijing Olympics."

According to the letter, Pistorius "reserves all rights and remedies that he has against the IAAF" and requests that the organization issue a public statement saying that comments made by Weiss and Davies don't reflect the official position of the athletic body.

A decision on whether Pistorius will make the South African Olympic team is expected by the end of the week.

Download Pistorius Letter to the IAAF.

PRO BONO SCORECARD 2008 Dewey Ballantine ranked 50th on this year's Scorecard; LeBoeuf Lamb ranked 12th. The two firms merged last October to form Dewey & LeBoeuf, and, as such, their pro bono scores this year reflect the separate entities.

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