Leaving Treadmarkz Across the Universe

Double-Amputee Oscar Pistorius Eligible to Compete In Olympics…AND the Paralympics

with 4 comments

by Treadmarkz

I have been quietly following this story, about Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who wishes to compete in the Olympics for his country South Africa alongside fully able-bodied competitors. If you’ve been reading my work, you’d probably guess that this is exactly what I have wanted: Pistorius is now eligible to attempt to qualify as an Olympic athlete, not a Paralympian.

What do you all think of this? Do the carbon-fiber “legs” that he wears give him an unfair advantage or give his body and unnatural performance contrary to what the spirit of the Olympics is all about in the first place? The experts at MIT who have tested his “legs” say that they do not. They are made to mimic the performance of a biological leg and foot as naturally as possible. In this age of performance-enhancing drugs, though, this is bound to raise some eyebrows.

Underneath the story I have linked to above, there is a series of reader comments and one of the readers made a great point (which I myself responded to). He basically said that Pistorius should be required to either compete as an “able-bodied” athlete or a “disabled” athlete. He should not be able to have it both ways, even though it looks as though for now at least Pistorius will be doing just that. If Pistorius is claiming to be “able bodied” enough to compete in the regular Olympics, then is it unfair for him to compete in the Paralympics against “disabled” athletes?

But hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here! Pistorius still has to qualify for the Olympics (or be selected as an alternate if he does not make a “qualifying time”). If he can’t do it, then we’ll know the “legs” gave him no unfair advantage and he will go back to being a “disabled athlete” again. Let’s let this one play out.

4 Responses

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  1. a piece where I covered the case may be of interest
    in SCRIPT-ed – A Journal of Law, Technology & Society (open access journal)

    Oscar Pistorius and the Future Nature of Olympic, Paralympic and Other Sports
    Gregor Wolbring, pp.139-160 April 15,2008
    and here my initial thoughts on the ruling


    May 17, 2008 at 12:11 AM

  2. I think it is obvious that his performance is related to his prostethics. Just in the last couple years his times for the events he has run have decreased substantially. Other runners take years just to shave off a fraction of a second. The difference is in the equipment he uses now. It is entirely possible that further advances in technology will make up for the current second gap. And then there are other issues like the accusations he is “running high,” meaning he has artificially extended the length of his stride beyond what it would have been by having longer prosthetics. It is because of this that compared to single amputees he is significantly faster. The difference is that a single amputee can not control his or her height.


    May 18, 2008 at 7:03 PM

  3. All good obvservations, D. I am just going by MIT’s findings that the prosthetics do not enhance performance. But the number you have cited do not lie. About “running high”, along with drug testing, they’d have to check him to make sure he is running at the same height all of the time. The second gap you referred to I believe is the one second he is off by in order to qualify for the Olympics? Well, if he has improved that much in just a short time, then you are correct, all it would take is a tweak in the technology to get him there., which again, is against the spirit of the Olympics. It shouldn’t be about technology, ti should be about training and physical preparation.

    ON A SIDE NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that my final comments in the above posting are inaccurate. If Pistorius does not make the Olympics, it will not mean that he was not given an unfair advantage. It will just mean that it did not give him enough of an advantage to make the Olympics. He could still defeat people who may not normally have defeated, and not make the Olympics.


    May 19, 2008 at 10:33 AM

  4. Overall this is a step in the right direction for the future of disabled athletes. While there will always be the Olympics and the Paralympics clearly separated by ability, there are disabled athletes out there that have the ability to compete with able bodied athletes. I think this is the beginning to a great future of possibilities for disabled athletes who are now going to have the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, NBA, NFL, NHL, etc… As long as that athlete does not have an advantage by using a device that helps them to compete, than why can’t we have a single amputee NFL quarterback or a world champion table tennis player who has Cerebral Palsy? Or there is always this option, we could show the world that the Paralympics, Wheelchair Basketball, Quad Rugby, etc… are all real sports and there shouldn’t be a reason to merge over because we are recognized as “Real Atheletes”, but wait, we aren’t.


    May 20, 2008 at 3:27 PM

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