Blade Runner

oscar-pistorius

Oscar Pistorius

Does a runner with no legs have an advantage over other runners?

Hang on.

Runner with no legs?

Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Not if you’re Oscar Pistorius, the world’s first double-amputee athlete to compete at the Olympics.

But if you do happen to be Oscar Pistorius, don’t expect everyone to cheer you on. And don’t count on prosthetics to be your saving grace in the 2012 London games. Those life-altering prosthetics may turn out to be your downfall.

Says Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun Times, “I think those blades give the South African runner a competitive advantage, and that he shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in the Olympics.”

Morrissey is not alone in his criticism of the use of prosthetics in the Olympics.

In 2007, the International Association of Athletics Federations re-wrote the rules of Olympic competition, banning “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels, or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.”

But Sports Page Magazine reports other amputee runners arguing that “it takes more than just carbon fiber blades to be fast.”

triathlete-sarah-reinertsen

Triathlete Sarah Reinertsen
Photo by: Patrik Giardino/Corbis

Single amputee triathlete Sarah Reinertsen poses the question, “How is it an advantage not to have two legs?

She points out that Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius cannot walk, run or function in daily life without his prosthetic legs.

Do we tell someone, you can’t [compete in] those glasses because it makes you see better?” asks Reinersten.

Moreover Reinersten asserts that, “It’s hard enough to be an athlete with one missing leg, much less be told I have an advantage because of my prosthetic. Really? It takes an athlete with a prosthetic leg more energy and more oxygen than a non-amputee athlete to do any sport. I love competing and my prostheses allow me to compete. I say, isn’t that great?”

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What do you say?

Do prosthetics give Olympic athletes an unfair advantage?

Or should we support amputee athletes rather than penalize them?

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World News Wednesday

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12 thoughts on “Blade Runner

  1. I am conflicted in my thoughts on this. You can definitely tell that he is a good athlete, and that he is putting in a similar amount of effort as other athletes. If he was setting World records, I would be more concerned about whether he has an advantage or not.

    For now, he is a great example of overcoming adversity. It is nice to see him competing with able bodied athletes. It also makes us realize that running is not just about legs. It takes the whole body to run.

    Now for another question? Should he be allowed to also compete in the Paralympics?

    • First, I would like to thank you for your comments. I am really enjoying your well-thought-out views on various issues. 🙂

      Considering that the Paralympics has had its share of controversy, this is a good question – and one which will be interesting to watch play out. But I’m glad you pointed out that Pistorius is far from setting World records – which would at least provide tangible evidence for suspicions of “advantage.”

      As it stands, I agree with your view that he is an amazing example of overcoming adversity. I do wish critics would consider crediting drive & determination against all odds as readily as they criticize an amputee’s “advantage.”

  2. these criticisms seem to me to stem from ignorance of the mechanics of prosthetics. Perhaps formally getting the opinions of medical experts and maybe even trials should be used to see if they are in fact giving an unfair advantage? Because otherwise it’s not fair to disqualify these athletes based on their prosthetics.

    • I agree. Hard facts about the perceived “advantage” of prosthetics would help to set the record straight before re-writing Olympic rules which disqualify amputees based on perception alone.

  3. I think that someone invented “picky pills” and supplied these critics with a lifetime supply. What an achievement to have the courage to overcome their disability and have the guts to compete. I admire them – as I think all rational people do.

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