Thursday, July 19, 2012

Weighing-in on Blade Runner & the Olympics

Oscar Pistorius is a South African sprinter known as the "Blade Runner" and "the fastest man on no legs." Pistorius, who has a double amputation, is the world record holder for sport class T44 in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events and runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs by Ossur. In 2007, Pistorius took part in his first international competitions for able-bodied athletes. However, his artificial lower legs, while enabling him to compete, have generated claims that he has an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. (Source: Wikipedia)

Call me a purist, but I believe the Olympics should be for those good enough to compete as they were born, without any technological enhancements whatsoever for any reason.

Once you get into the case by case basis, medically-approved or not arguments, it gets into a dangerous gray area and people will ultimately try to take advantage. For example, if you say that Pistorius is allowed to compete with his unique story (however inspiring it is and however hard he has worked), then what's to stop you from allowing an athlete who ran over his own legs on purpose so that he can replace it with titanium legs to run faster? That may be an extreme example, but perhaps not if strict standards of qualification are not enacted and unenforced.

I don't buy the whole net advantage/disadvantage thing that analysts have "supposedly" pegged on Pistorius. To say that he has an advantage validates the idea that no technological enhancements should be allowed. To say that he actually has a disadvantage just shows that current technology is not up to par (though at the rate of innovation, will surely be compensated in the near future.) Furthermore, to leave the decision of whether or not he can compete in the Olympics up to medics/scientists would be a denigration to his talent.

To those who say that he has had a lot of courage and heart to make it this far, I don't disagree. To those who say that he should be allowed to compete in the Olympics because of it, I caution to think hard about the precedent being set. That's why the Paralympics were started, to allow athletes with physical disabilities like Pistorius to compete in a similar environment/setting. (Besides, if you wanted so bad to see if a physically disabled person could beat an able-bodied person, then why don't you hold a separate competition where the Olympics champions compete against the Paralympics champions?)

When a blind runner decides to enter the Olympics, he should be able to do so, only if he does so without aid. When an amputee decides to enter the Olympics, he should also be able to do so, but only if he does so without aid.

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