FanDuel - WFBC

January 14, 2008

Double Amputee Can't Run in Beijing Olympics: Oscar Pistorius, a South African sprinter dubbed the "blade runner" because he runs on prosthetics, has been barred from this year's Summer Games. "An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30 percent) when compared to someone not using the blade," the International Association of Athletics Federations ruled. A May 2007 New York Times profile asked the question, "Is he disabled or too-abled?" A YouTube video shows Pistorius competing at the Golden Gala in Rome last year, his first race against "able-bodied" sprinters.

posted by rcade to other at 09:06 AM - 36 comments

It's a fine line between prosthetic and bionic, I guess. I understand the decision, but it's unfortunate.

posted by chicobangs at 09:30 AM on January 14

Terrible news for Oscar, a guy who has fought so hard for what now seems like very little. I agree with Chico though, its understandable why such a decision would be made. Otherwise you may see runners/athletes intentionally amputing themselves for better times, performance, etc. After all, athletes used steroids and other harmful substances to try and get better physically, so whos to say whats what anymore?

posted by Kendall at 09:41 AM on January 14

That was an awesome comeback on his part at the end of the race. Very exciting.

posted by NoMich at 09:58 AM on January 14

At some point, maybe in the very near future, some standards are going to have to be decided upon as to what constitutes an unnatural mechanical advantage, the same way we're now drafting rules on what constitutes a biochemical advantage. Does a titanium knee replacement give someone an unfair advantage? What about spring-loaded feet? A turbo jet in one's butt? Hydraulic springs in the shoulders or feet? A third leg with a pogo stick attachment? I'm kidding, sort of, but similar, and far more plausible, developments are in the pipeline right now, and could become practical reality well within our lifetimes. Prosthetics issues like this one are the tip of the iceberg. (Never mind things like modular brain attachments, which will take this airy-fairy discussion and knock it even further into the stratosphere.) Scoff at this stuff at your peril. As far as Oscar is concerned, well, aside from the letdown of not being able to compete at the Olympics, his achievements are pretty cool as they are. He's got it in him to be a role model, as living (walking!) proof that you can make yourself into anything, and achieve anything you truly put your mind to. It's a great story, even if it doesn't lead through Beijing.

posted by chicobangs at 09:58 AM on January 14

This is a decision that I really, really hate to agree with, but I think I have to. Legs aren't a static replacement part for a runner. His running prosthesis replaces more than just a simple body part: it creates a part of the running process, a process which an able-bodied athlete spends years fine-tuning through training. With a prosthesis, you can fine-tune that part of the process in a workshop, or on an engineer's drafting table—and that, to today's mindset, is crossing a line. On edit: what chico said. That line is not well-defined right now, but it will have to be defined very soon.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:07 AM on January 14

Otherwise you may see runners/athletes intentionally amputing themselves for better times, performance, etc. Do you honestly believe that? As much as this seems bad on the face of it, it's not like it's a new problem. Wheelchair racers have been a separate part of marathons for years.

posted by yerfatma at 10:12 AM on January 14

Otherwise you may see runners/athletes intentionally amputing themselves for better times, performance, etc. Like when Rocky broke his arm on purpose in that Nazi soccer movie?

posted by YukonGold at 10:15 AM on January 14

Wheelchair racers have been a separate part of marathons for years. But wheeling with one's arms is not running, so it makes sense for it to be separate. As DJE points out, it is the process that is of concern here. Running with fancy new Nikes or prosthetic blades on your feet is still running. How does one go about finding that well-defined line? How can Olympism claim to espouse a universal value system, but segregate and exclude based on defining what a body is/n't? If he only had one of these blades and one "real" leg, would he have been allowed to compete? And what if they find a way to synthesize the polymer with his DNA such that it becomes one substance? And ... I could go on for a while ... yikes.

posted by smithers at 10:41 AM on January 14

We don't need to get as sci-fi as JATO asses -- what about an archer who wears prescription contact lenses that can provide better than 20/20 vision? What about a javelin thrower who has had Tommy John surgery (baseball pitchers have been claiming that surgery increases their velocity for years)? I don't think there is an easy place to draw the line, but I think this discussion is necessary in all sports.

posted by Rock Steady at 11:05 AM on January 14

what about an archer who wears prescription contact lenses that can provide better than 20/20 vision? Many of the top golfers (including Tiger Woods) have had laser eye surgery to give themselves 20/10 vision or better already.

posted by chicobangs at 11:06 AM on January 14

Like when Rocky broke his arm on purpose in that Nazi soccer movie? It was the Irish goalkeeper that broke his own arm so that Rocky could take his place in the lineup and lead the heroes to escape.

posted by psmealey at 11:29 AM on January 14

Otherwise you may see runners/athletes intentionally amputing themselves for better times, performance, etc. Yeah, and guys are gonna start choppin' off their penises to compete with "inferior" women too. And ... I could go on for a while ... yikes. Well said, smithers ... I could go on about this for a while too ... "yikes" is right.

posted by Spitztengle at 11:39 AM on January 14

If the prosthetics provide that large an advantage, perhaps they should swap the roles of the Paralympics and the Olympics since the faster, stronger athletes will be competing in the former. This reminds me of the fuss made when Tom Dempsey kicked his record-setting field goal with a shoe specially made for his toeless foot. The NFL allowed the record to stand (no choice, really), but outlawed special shoes soon after.

posted by joaquim at 11:53 AM on January 14

what about an archer who wears prescription contact lenses that can provide better than 20/20 vision? Besides chico's point about laser eye surgery, contact lenses can actually be a hinderance in shooting sports as they can drift while you're aiming, causing all sorts of problems.

posted by goddam at 12:07 PM on January 14

In a way, it's more like they're banning the use of blades for runners, not banning Oscar Pistorius himself. Contact lenses are available to the other competitors, as are "fancy new Nikes". The biggest problem with letting Oscar Pistorius run in the Olympics is that you couldn't then object if one of the other "able-bodied" athletes turned up wearing a pair of these spring-loaded blades on the end of his feet like shoes. Such a runner would have the advantage of the spring, and the advantage of a massively longer stride pattern than everyone else. Cornering might be tough, but I'm sure they'd overcome that. Dr John put it well - it's not something one finds oneself wanting to agree with, but given that his blades give him a seemingly unequivocal and demonstrable advantage in terms of the energy he is needing to expend covering the distance, you can't let him race while he's wearing them. I'm glad no one is screaming about discrimination though. He lost the genetic/biological lottery in terms of being an Olympic athlete, but then so did almost everyone else.

posted by JJ at 01:32 PM on January 14

Well, my argument was simply that people would go to great lengths in order to win.. not myself personally, or 99% of us, but that was my interpretation of the ruling. (Besides the fact they thought it was an unfair advantage) Maybe it seems a little extreme, or unlikely, but it could happen. I think chico put it in much better terms than myself.

posted by Kendall at 01:58 PM on January 14

Mechanical advantages in sports already exist and in spades*****.... seems the committee couldn't handle one like artificial legs. I think that stinks. ***** examples, Live balls in baseball Aluminum bats in non-pro baseball Large head tennis racquets Special strings to impart more spin in tennis Live aerodynamically engineered golf balls Golf clubs with a higher coefficient of restitution than earlier models. Golf club shafts with composite materials In olympic sports: Poles for vaulting that have a higher restoration of energy Track surfaces that provide a greater energy return Javelins with enhanced modulus and better aerodynamics Bicycles with aerodynamic wheels Bicycles with enhanced modulus which loose less energy Sails with better energy transfer and smoother surfaces And those are just off the top of my head... Some individuals with the legs Oscar has can barely get around, let alone run. The power in Oscars legs comes solely from his body...... I think the ruling stinks, let's hope it get over turned.

posted by Fly_Piscator at 02:36 PM on January 14

what about an archer who wears prescription contact lenses that can provide better than 20/20 vision? Many of the top golfers (including Tiger Woods) have had laser eye surgery to give themselves 20/10 vision or better already. posted by chicobangs at 11:06 AM CST on January 14 Chico. I am sure that you did not intend to imply it, but you make the surgery sound like some form of cheating. From what I understand, Woods had the surgery to correct an eye defect. The other golfers that did it probaly had similar reasons. I do not think that people would lightly make a decision to have eye surgery, given the things that can go wrong.

posted by Cave_Man at 02:47 PM on January 14

The difference Fly is that all of those examples you gave are available to everyone. Not everyone can put those blades on their legs. If they do infact offer a mechanical advantage, then it is not fair. "Some individuals with the legs Oscar has can barely get around, let alone run." This has nothing to do with competition. I'm very happy for the guy, but I have to agree with the decision.

posted by Steel_Town at 02:48 PM on January 14

And those are just off the top of my head... Some individuals with the legs Oscar has can barely get around, let alone run. The power in Oscars legs comes solely from his body...... I think the ruling stinks, let's hope it get over turned. posted by Fly_Piscator at 2:36 PM CST on January 14 Fly. Since every competitor and team has access to any of the items that you listed above there is no inherent advantage to one competitor or team. Not every competitor has access to well engineered prosthetic blades, therefore if they give an unfair advantage, they should be banned from competitions where all athletes do not have access to them. I think that the ruling is sad, but right. After I read the story last week, I was downcast for a while. Oscar has overcome a bad hand that nature dealt him and has excelled, seeing him not allowed to pursue a lifelong dream is understandably difficult for anyone to witness.

posted by Cave_Man at 03:05 PM on January 14

I am sure that you did not intend to imply it, but you make the surgery sound like some form of cheating. I made no such implication, and I believe no such thing. Anyone with ten grand can get the best laser surgeon money can buy, and it will help way more than just their golf game. If you're comparing an eye enhancement to a double leg amputation, well, I dare you to undergo both and get back to me. Some enhancements are entirely fine, healthy and good for the sports they serve (including pretty much everything on Fly_Piscator's straw-man list), but the blades are not something accessible to all competitors equally, and it gives the bearer a significant advantage over the rest of the field. Oscar is not just putting new shoes on here. He's wearing a high-tension spring on each leg instead of a foot. That's a whole nother level of enhancement. I'm not a hard-liner on this by any stretch, although I guess there's an argument to be made for some kind of "as-the-Lord-and-green-vegetables-made-you" rule. But if blades were to be allowed, then what would stop someone with both legs adding shoe extensions, or spring-stilts or something? If you don't draw the line at the blades themselves, then where do you draw the line?

posted by chicobangs at 03:11 PM on January 14

Mechanical advantages in sports already exist and in spades*****.... seems the committee couldn't handle one like artificial legs. I think that stinks. ***** examples, Live balls in baseball Aluminum bats in non-pro baseball Large head tennis racquets Special strings to impart more spin in tennis Live aerodynamically engineered golf balls Golf clubs with a higher coefficient of restitution than earlier models. Golf club shafts with composite materials In olympic sports: Poles for vaulting that have a higher restoration of energy Track surfaces that provide a greater energy return Javelins with enhanced modulus and better aerodynamics Bicycles with aerodynamic wheels Bicycles with enhanced modulus which loose less energy Sails with better energy transfer and smoother surfaces Since every competitor and team has access to any of the items that you listed above there is no inherent advantage to one competitor or team. Actually, in the items listed by Fly above, only the ones that are bolded actually are automatically available to everyone in the league/event/competition because they are mandated parts of the equipment/playing surface as set out by the league/event/sport. The other ones come down to a choice by the team/competitor, or the bank account of the team/competitor. That said, none of those are dramatic changes to the equipment. A golf club made of one material is essentially the same as one made of another material. However, if a competitor brought in a rifle-like device that FIRED the golf ball down the course (instead of striking it), then they would definitely have a problem. That's the main argument against this runner: it's not that he's got a cool pair of shoes, it's that his legs have been modified to work in a way that isn't part of the natural running motion. Normal legs/feet don't work that way.

posted by grum@work at 03:24 PM on January 14

Gee, nice posts... I submit anyone can have the legs that Oscar has... just cut off the live ones and use prosthetics... simple.

posted by Fly_Piscator at 03:42 PM on January 14

However, if a competitor brought in a rifle-like device that FIRED the golf ball down the course ... then I would play a lot more golf.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 03:50 PM on January 14

I submit anyone can have the legs that Oscar has... just cut off the live ones and use prosthetics... simple. posted by Fly_Piscator at 3:42 PM CST on January 14 You first Bro, then I have your back. :-)

posted by Cave_Man at 04:18 PM on January 14

... then I would play a lot more golf. this has to have been posted on SpoFi before.

posted by goddam at 04:41 PM on January 14

Wait until we get into a discussion about gene doping. It's coming, too.

posted by owlhouse at 05:18 PM on January 14

... then I would play a lot more golf. this has to have been posted on SpoFi before. Honestly, I had no idea that existed. I simply chose the craziest way to get the ball down the course.

posted by grum@work at 08:08 PM on January 14

i think if it's that much of a andvantage then they shouldn't be allowed, also there's not a lot of chance of injury or the rods breaking ( they are made of pretty strong stuff) and since he has no legs he can't turn a ankle or pull a hanstring in the middle of a race(unless he's only amputated from the knee's down. plus he's legs won't be tired.

posted by rockstar2001 at 08:55 PM on January 14

While I feel badly for this guy, he has obviously worked hard to get where he is, I agree with the decision. Being a former runner, I have to question his body mechanics and the processing of oxygen in the blood, the build up of lactic acid and such that a runner deals with. If he has less natural body he has a decided advantage in this area. He has less natural body to burn the oxygen and therefore a more efficient usage. His blades remain a constant regardless of how tired he gets. It's a shame, but a just decision.

posted by Hockey fan at 09:24 PM on January 14

Otherwise you may see runners/athletes intentionally amputing themselves for better times, performance, etc I thought this was the worst it could get on this thread, until this one. Gee, nice posts... I submit anyone can have the legs that Oscar has... just cut off the live ones and use prosthetics... simple. Fly meet Kendall, Kendall this is Fly. Kendall is the spofite formerly known as Red's Ox R Ghey. The two of you go off and start cutting, preferrably at the fingers please. Whatever you do, in the name of all that is holy, DO NOT breed!

posted by jojomfd1 at 01:10 AM on January 15

Now back to the FPP, it is an unfortunate decision that he can not run in Beijing. From the looks of that video he put in a lot of training time. However, it also looks as if his prosthetics do give him a fairly significant advantage. I don't know if it is 30% or not, and would be interested to see how they calculated that. Oscar will always have what he has earned in his heart and mind though, and the world knows he can run with the best. He just wasn't allowed to.

posted by jojomfd1 at 01:16 AM on January 15

There's another factor - even if they'd said it was OK in theory, he still hasn't made the qualifying time. "What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies if he can't have babies?" One shouldn't respond to a "straw man" like the one Fly errected, but if it will make him (and Kendall) feel better, think of it as the blades being banned, not Pistorius himself. They are banned in the same way that any number of golf club innovations have been banned over the years, for providing an advantage that's not considered to be in the interest of the game. If you allowed Oscar's blades, you'd have to allow them across the board and let anyone use them. If Jeremy Wariner strapped a modified pair of them onto his feet, after some initial stability and cornering issues, he could probably run sub 40 seconds, not least because his stride would suddenly be so much longer. Sorry. I'm repeating myself, but seriously... stop with the bleeding hearts. They're not symbolic of his struggle against oppression, they're symbolic of your "struggle against reality."

posted by JJ at 05:40 AM on January 15

Thanks Loretta.

posted by yerfatma at 06:02 AM on January 15

It's a shame those blades give unfair advantage, because seeing Pistorius smoke his competition at the Olympics would inspire thousands of amputees and other differently abled people. In that video, there's magic in seeing him round the turn and blast off, because you'd never expect someone to move that fast on prosthetics.

posted by rcade at 07:26 AM on January 15

After watching Jon Comer make me look like a poser, it doesn't surprise me what people with prosthetics can do.

posted by MrFrisby at 09:21 AM on January 15

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