Circa correspondent Stephanie Abrams sat down with Paralympian Patrick Blake Leeper and his attorney for an exclusive interview about the implications of this weekend's ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which may result in Leeper being pulled from the U.S. Paralympic team.
Patrick Blake Leeper has no legs, but he's one of the fastest men in the world. His dream to win gold for the US Paralympic team in Rio, however, is in jeopardy due to an international legal dispute.
Leeper has a history of non-performance enhancing drug and alcohol abuse, and in 2015 was suspended from the sport for two years after cocaine was found in his system. Leeper and the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) reached a settlement that reduced his suspension to just one year, which opened the door for him to compete in the Paralympics in Rio this summer.
He got clean, and met all of USADA's rigorous guidelines in that year. Leeper trained at UCLA, running sober for the first time since he began drinking at age 15. He improved his time by three seconds in the 400 meter.
The International Paralympic Committee has no obligation to recognize the settlement agreement between Mr. Patrick Leeper and USADA
Friday, Leeper got word that an international sports court ruled that the International Paralympic Committee has no obligation to recognize the one year settlement agreement with USADA. Meanwhile, Leeper plans to continue setting records and prepare for the 2017 World Championships.
Circa reached out to the IPC, USADA, and the United States Olympic Committee for comment, but there was no immediate response.
Al Joyner, former Olympian and one of Leeper's coaches, had this to say.
Leeper is anxiously awaiting the final word from the IPC. He should know by Monday whether he makes it onto the official roster of athletes competing for the United States, or whether he loses the dream of competing in Rio.
The court's ruling also impacts the sovereignty of U.S. Olympic officials in the future to pick the athletes they want to compete on the world stage. It comes in the shadows of a doping scandal that forced most of the Russian track and field team to be banned from competing at the Rio Olympics.
Leeper's lawyer, Matt Lewis of Law Firm White & Case, told Circa he'd like for the international sporting community to show mercy to his client, recognizing the hard road to recovery he followed to win a chance to compete in Rio.
"We'd like for those bodies, the USOC and the US Paralympics to reach out to the IPC and find out, ask them, even though you're not obligated to recognize this one-year settlement agreement, find it in your heart to let Patrick run," Lewis said in an interview.
Leeper said he won't let the ruling demoralize him, saying he'll come back to compete in the 2020 Olympics if necessary to get his chance at gold.
"I'm going to come back in 2017 stronger faster and be the fastest man in the U.S. -- legs or no legs," he said.