FanDuel - WFBC

May 16, 2008

Pistorius makes strides: is his quest to compete in Beijing. The double-amputee won his appeal against the IOC in his hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (previous SpoFi discussion on this topic here and here; note Amateur's graphic that suggests how far Oscar still has to go in competition).

posted by smithers to other at 08:56 AM - 56 comments

this is great from a human rights standpoint, but as we all know, olympic sports is about how much cheating you can get away with. i fear the mechanical engineers are now going to work to create a spring effect on his devices that will assure the 'ordinary' runners cannot compete.

posted by jaygolf at 10:07 AM on May 16

I dont think its right to let him compete. He has a mechanical advantage over other runners. His prostetics make him taller then he would be and increase his stride length. I dont think he will win any medals, but I think it is wrong for him to compete in the first place. If he does manage to win, I think we have just opened a huge can of worms here.

posted by Debo270 at 10:14 AM on May 16

He has a mechanical advantage over other runners. I'm not sure I disagree with your larger point, but can we agree his "advantage" may be offset by certain disadvantages?

posted by yerfatma at 10:20 AM on May 16

but can we agree his "advantage" may be offset by certain disadvantages? I can agree with that. I am not going to be the one that says "how long till people are cutting off legs for this advantage" because I know someone will get to that point. My issue is this is why they make paraolympics. For athletes with disabilities. I mean, I am a special education teacher so I am all for equal treatment of people with disabilities, but the key is "EQUAL" I just see this going very wrong. I just have a big issue with the height and stride part of this. By looking at other bones, you can see how tall he would have been. The "new" legs make him several inches taller and add considerably to his stride.

posted by Debo270 at 10:40 AM on May 16

I don't know if I can agree with that. What disadvantages are you talking about, yerfatma? Being a double amputee isn't even the point here anymore. If he can put blades at the end of his legs, then what's stopping any of the other competitors from doing the same? You don't need to be an amputee to put blades on your feet, right? If I was an Olympic athlete with all my limbs intact and I found out they let Pistorius in with his blades, my next phone call would be to an engineer to get a pair of the things for myself. Because, and this is the important point from where I'm sitting, if one athlete gets to wear them, then everyone has to be allowed to wear them, regardless of the condition of the rest of your body. It's only fair that all competitors have access to the same technologies. Anything else violates the code of fairness. Right?

posted by chicobangs at 10:43 AM on May 16

That's exactly the point as I see it, chico. The reason there has been no issue in the past with things like improvements in shoe design or outfit design is that those improvements have (in theory) been available to everyone and it's been a matter for the athlete to chose which shoe to wear, or which manufacturer to align himself with. If Oscar can strap these blades to his legs, then so can anyone else. I want to watch a running race, I don't want to watch a pogo competition with a seven foot Jeremy Wariner winning the 400 in 35 seconds.

posted by JJ at 11:16 AM on May 16

Trust But Verify discusses this in brief with some quotes (and a link) to the actual decision. From the excerpts I got the impression that the case was decided in Oscar's favor because the IAAF failed to fulfil the burden of proof that he was receiving an unfair advantage. More specifically their methodology for testing was flawed and unfair, and they had predetermined to ban him.

posted by apoch at 11:33 AM on May 16

I dont think its right to let him compete. He has a mechanical advantage over other runners. If he has a mechanical advantage, where are the other double amputee runners among the world-class competitors at the top levels of his sport? I think he's in a class of his own as a runner so talented he can win in spite of his handicap, and it would be a shame to deny him from competing.

posted by rcade at 12:12 PM on May 16

where are the other double amputee runners The other double amputees are running in the paraolymipcs where they should be.

posted by Debo270 at 12:47 PM on May 16

Yeah, and before Jackie Robinson the other black baseball players were in the Negro League, "where they should be." God forbid anybody get out of place and try to do something no one else has done before.

posted by apoch at 12:56 PM on May 16

Well regardless of whether or not his artificial limbs give him an advantage, it seems as though that advantage is not enough. Pistorius holds the 400-meter Paralympic world record of 46.56 seconds, but that time is outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55. The difference in his record time and the minimum time required to qualify for the Olympics is over a second. While impressive for guy with no lower legs it is an eternity from just qualifying for the Olympics in the event. It appears that if judged by performance alone he is not good enough, admirable as his accomplishment may be, it is a moot point if he cannot qualify. The fastest double amputee with all the technology is not as fast as the slowest Olympic qualifier. Everybody's concern about an unfair advantage seems misplaced. I do agree that medical technology, chemical enhancement, equipment improvements and other advancements are something sports will be dealing with for a long time when it comes to the record books and what is considered cheating. Lets face it, even something as minor as improvements in clothing or playing surfaces give the modern athlete an advantage over those who set records in the past and their fellow competitors.

posted by Atheist at 01:06 PM on May 16

This isnt discrimination because of race or ethnic background. It is an unfair advantage period. It is the same reason powerlifters cant wear the lifting suits and bikers cant strap a rocket to the seat. By allowing this, they are opening the gate for more science then athletics. up next, spring loaded shoes.

posted by Debo270 at 01:07 PM on May 16

God forbid anybody get out of place and try to do something no one else has done before. Well said, apoch. In light of Atheist's comment, above, I would offer that if Pistorious's time suddenly becomes significantly better, then some sort of review of the decision to allow him to compete should be conducted. In this respect, it would be no different from chemical enhancement.

posted by Howard_T at 01:11 PM on May 16

Relative to the world's fastest man, doesn't every other human have "certain disadvantages" in a race? I disagree with the decision and disagree with putting the burden on the IAAF to show that a prohibited device gave an unfair advantage. I think that the burden should have been on the athlete to show that only disabled athletes were prohibited from using mechanical devices or otherwise unfairly discriminated against. The devices certainly give Pistorius an advantage. Pistorius with the devices can run faster than Pistorius without the devices. The question traditionally has been whether Runner A can run faster than Runner B. The question is now whether Runner A with certain devices (and with what kind of devices) can run faster than Runner B without devices. I do not think that this question should be resolved in the Olympics. Races are contests to find the fastest. They are not primarily public accommodations or employment opportunities. Races, by there very nature, discriminate against the slow. A public track should be required to be opened to athletes with these devices, but I do not think the Olympics should be required to allow them in races.

posted by Aardhart at 01:20 PM on May 16

Debo, no one has proved that he has an unfair advantage. The IAAF tried, but as CAS pointed out, it was a biased unfair sham. Since there is no proven advantage your argument consists of, "He doesn't have all of his legs, so he should go compete over there with the rest of the different looking folk instead of against us normal bodied folk." Which is why a comparison to racism is not only apt, but appropriate.

posted by apoch at 01:20 PM on May 16

I don't want to watch a pogo competition with a seven foot Jeremy Wariner Speak for yourself.

posted by yerfatma at 01:25 PM on May 16

The burden of proof has to be on the agency that chooses to exclude the athlete. In any fair system, the prosecution has to bear the burden of proof. They made the assertion that his blades gave him an unfair advantage. So therefor they have to prove it. Otherwise they could ban people for whatever reason they wanted to, fair or otherwise, and the innocent would suffer. There is a reason that any fair legal system is innocent until proven guilty.

posted by apoch at 01:29 PM on May 16

The burden of proof has to be on the agency that chooses to exclude the athlete. The way I see it, the athlete was not excluded, his devices were. If he could compete in an event without mechanical devices, he would be allowed to try. I vaguely recall an amputee competing in archery or shooting of some kind, but I could be mistaken. They made the assertion that his blades gave him an unfair advantage. As I wrote, "The devices certainly give Pistorius an advantage. Pistorius with the devices can run faster than Pistorius without the devices." The question becomes, what is unfair? Is it fair for the fastest man to win the race? My answer is yes. Should some slower athletes be allowed to use some mechanical devices that give them an advantage? IAAF answered no. CAS answered yes. My answer is no. On the other hand, is it fair that I am not fast enough to be in the Olympics? Otherwise they could ban people for whatever reason they wanted to, fair or otherwise, and the innocent would suffer. Pistorius was "banned" because he could not "run" (unaided by mechanical device, as the word has always been understood) fast enough.

posted by Aardhart at 01:43 PM on May 16

No apoch. this is not at all like racism. This doesnt have to do with people who "look different. it has to do with people that are different. As i said earlier, I teach special ed and work daily with kids with disabilities. Our special olympics were last week. If there is a sympathetic person out there who see what disabilities do to people its me, but this is apples and oranges here. If he wants to use the prostetic legs he walks around all day on to run thats fine but these were built for the purpose of running. They make him taller then he would be if he still had his legs. They spring better then any of our ankles. I would almost be ok with this if he was the right height but the longer your stride the faster you go in theory. I dont think he will win anything and it will be a great story for the media for a few weeks during the olympics but it is still wrong. Did they put limits on him? What if he has a new better pair built and gain 2-3 seconds on his time or 5 more inches of height? Will that matter or will it still be ok. This just opens a door they may not be able to close.

posted by Debo270 at 01:52 PM on May 16

The other double amputees are running in the paraolymipcs where they should be. That's a nice glib answer, but it defies logic. If other amputees were capable of world-class speed against "abled" runners, they'd be doing the same thing Pistorius is doing.

posted by rcade at 01:53 PM on May 16

The introduction of race to this discussion is the reddest herring I've ever seen. As Aardhart pointed out, OP wasn't excluded, the blades were. Or was your point that the blades were black?

posted by JJ at 02:01 PM on May 16

Pistorius holds the 400-meter Paralympic world record of 46.56 seconds, but that time is outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55. Everybody's concern about an unfair advantage seems misplaced. This story may be about Pistorius, but issue is not exactly just about Pistorius. Just because he currently is not at an Olympic pace doesn't mean that (a) he is not getting an unfair advantage from a technology that is not available to all competitors, or (b) someone in the future using this technology or something not yet invented couldn't compete at an Olympic level. I agree that it is unfortunate that this guy can't race in the Olympics, but the IAAF doesn't have the luxury of deciding this on a case by case basis. (If they did, then there would actually be legitimate discrimination cases.) The precedent has to be set to keep the playing field level.

posted by bender at 02:06 PM on May 16

As I wrote, "The devices certainly give Pistorius an advantage. Pistorius with the devices can run faster than Pistorius without the devices." The question becomes, what is unfair? Well, shoes also give runners this advantage. And some shoes are specially made for a runner and no one else can buy those shoes. The idea that such a runner would have to prove that their shoes don't give them an unfair advantage is silly. What about some special aerodynamic shorts? The thing is that there are lots of things at this level that are made special for an athlete. If the prosthetics give him an unfair advantage, through lengthening his stride or whatever, it shouldn't be all that hard to prove scientifically.

posted by bperk at 02:22 PM on May 16

And some shoes are specially made for a runner and no one else can buy those shoes. Really? Shoes may differ from competitor to competitor, but they're all pretty much the same at the highest levels of competition: the lightest, closest-fitting slip-ons with varying grips depending on the surface. To my knowledge, none of them provide extra propulsion.

posted by chicobangs at 02:49 PM on May 16

If the prosthetics give him an unfair advantage, through lengthening his stride or whatever, it shouldn't be all that hard to prove scientifically. Prove what scientifically? Pistorius' strides with the devices are longer than without. Pistorius' whatever with the devices is faster than without. Carl Lewis' fast is faster than my fast. Pistorius' fast with the devices is faster than my fast. Pistorius' fast without the devices might even be faster than my fast. I don't think science can prove fair or unfair. And some shoes are specially made for a runner and no one else can buy those shoes. I would support requiring Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and any other major shoe maker to make all their shoes available to any qualifier for the right to have their product used in the Olympics. One more thing to keep in mind: The world record for running a marathon is about 2 hours, 5 minutes. The world record for a wheelchair marathon is about 1 hour, 18 minutes. Wheelchair marathoners are faster, therefore it is an unfair advantage? Pistorius is not yet faster, therefore it is not yet an unfair advantage? This distinction is arbitrary. This distinction is unfair.

posted by Aardhart at 02:52 PM on May 16

To my knowledge, none of them provide extra propulsion. We don't know that prosthetics provide extra propulsion either. Prove what scientifically? From the article: " . . . the CAS panel has considered that the IAAF did not prove that the biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device gives Oscar Pistorius an advantage over other athletes not using the device."

posted by bperk at 03:02 PM on May 16

The problem here is some people have watched too many cartoons. The blades look like they provide propulsion. They also look like they may have come stamped with ACME on the side of the box. If they clearly provided this propulsion, then the IAAF was unable to provide this proof that some here seem to have taken as gospel on sight. Translation - there is no advantage other than that which you are imposing. But I'm sure you're more acquainted with the issue of cheating in sprinting moreso than the IAAF. Oh wait - No you're not. Let him run.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:22 PM on May 16

Say an athlete lost their legs a bit higher up, and they had to use a wheelchair, rather than just prosthetics. Wheelchair athletes have been recording faster times than able-bodied athletes for years in races like marathons, as Aardhart notes. There's a reason that they don't compete in the same division - they have an advantage. The Pistorius case lies on the same spectrum of artificial assistance. Are we arguing about where we draw the line on mechanical advantage (e.g. allow his prosthetics but ban wheelchairs) or are we saying there shouldn't be any allowed in the first place? I'm with the latter, otherwise we end up opening Debo's can of worms and tipping it over our heads.

posted by owlhouse at 05:27 PM on May 16

We don't know that prosthetics provide extra propulsion either. bperk, look at what he's wearing. They're springs. They work because of coiled tension. These aren't peglegs, and he's not Bluebeard. He's got pieces of flexible metal stuck to the bottom of his legs that propel him forward.

posted by chicobangs at 05:30 PM on May 16

If they clearly provided this propulsion, then the IAAF was unable to provide this proof that some here seem to have taken as gospel on sight. My thoughts too. If the issue was as cut-and-dried as people are making it sound, he wouldn't have won this appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The court ruled that the IAAF didn't prove unfair advantage. He won an appeal that's an established part of the process that originally disqualified him. If people supported the IAAF's authority to bar him, I think they should support the authority of the appellate process that ensures IAAF decisions are just. Let him run.

posted by rcade at 07:20 AM on May 17

" . . . the CAS panel has considered that the IAAF did not prove that the biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device gives Oscar Pistorius an advantage over other athletes not using the device." Translation: His devices do not make him faster than other athletes. If he did win a race, that would be proof that he has an advantage over the other athletes, so his devices would not be allowed. Running with devices would have to be a separate event, as the wheelchair marathon is. The "biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device" does not mean anything. It means that he is not faster. You cannot meaningfully compare the relatively simple devices to the shin/calf/ankle/foot. Let him run, as long as he cannot win? That sucks. But I'm sure you're more acquainted with the issue of cheating in sprinting moreso than the IAAF. . . . Oh wait - No you're not. The IAAF ruled he could not compete.

posted by Aardhart at 09:27 AM on May 17

It's not about "let him run". If you're wanting to campaign, it's about "let him use the blades". If you let him use the blades, then everyone else should be allowed to use them too. I suppose we'll never know, but I wonder how the CAS would have ruled (or if they'd even have been involved) if the athlete wanting to use the blades had been able-bodied. My feeling is that if Jeremy Wariner had turned up and said "I want to wear these things on my feet that make me a foot and a half taller than I really am and increase my stride length by about a yard, that OK with everyone?" it wouldn't even have made it to court in the first place. Oscar should no more be running in the Olympics than Dudley Moore should have been cast as Tarzan.

posted by JJ at 12:13 PM on May 17

The "biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device" does not mean anything. It means that he is not faster. You cannot meaningfully compare the relatively simple devices to the shin/calf/ankle/foot. They had scientists to do just that. Also, part of the decision was process-oriented. IAAF did just what people here have done, which was decide first that they gave an unfair advantage before looking at the evidence. Here's the decision.

posted by bperk at 12:47 PM on May 17

Okay, you want everyone else to be able to use blades? Fine, just as long as you find a way to allow Pistorius to use human ankles along with the blades. Oh wait, we can't regrow his legs! Which is why he has to use a prosthesis. The decision, thanks for the link bperk, doesn't allow for blade use by any model for any athelete. It specifically states that it only allows Pistorius to use the specific model of blade. Furthermore, it states that if the IAAF can actually prove an advantage than it would be appropriate to ban Pistorius and that model of blade. debo, good for you for working with special ed kids. I'm probably over-reacting to your "where they belong" statement, but I just don't understand how you can say you believe in equal treatment but that disabled athletes don't belong in the Olympics. Separate but equal does not exist.

posted by apoch at 01:39 PM on May 17

Your right leg, I like, JJ. I've got nothing against your right leg.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:49 PM on May 17

Where's the equality in creating a special rule just for Oscar Pistorius? The guy has the misfortune to have no lower legs. Personally, I have the misfortune to be shit at running. Should I too be allowed to use any mechanical device that helps me propel myself around the track about a second off Olympic pace (which in my case would be something along the lines of a small motorbike)? Does the line only get drawn when I start to threaten the leaders? You can't say that Oscar with blades is no faster than Oscar with real legs would be, because we have no Oscar with real legs to perform that experiment with, so the comparison is being made with other athletes. If one of those other athletes shaves half a second off the world record (not likely, given that no one can get within half a second of it most of MJ's time anyway, but for the sake of argument) does that mean that OP then gets to add another inch to the Flexfoot? Or add another few pounds of spring? Just to bring himself up to within a few seconds of winning, but never nearer? That to me sounds like contrived and intolerable cruelty. The Olympic games are about identifying the strongest, the fastest, the best. They discriminate. That's the point of them. If they didn't, why would we watch? If the cry for Oscar is "let him run!", then I demand that the cry also be taken up for me: "let him ride a small motorbike!" [As soon as I saw it come in I thought 'What a lovely leg for the race!']

posted by JJ at 05:10 AM on May 18

I just don't understand how you can say you believe in equal treatment but that disabled athletes don't belong in the Olympics. Separate but equal does not exist. Equal treatment does not mean equal results. All athletes should be given equal treatment. That is precisely my point. Not allowing blades for any athlete is not about discriminating against an athlete because he is disabled. It is about preserving the whole point of the race. Running is about running. It is not about technology. It is minimally affected by what athlete has the best equipment. Indy, Nascar, and F1 is hugely affected by technology, but we are talking about track. I would not oppose prostectic devices that were not so intertwined with the point of the sport. I would have no problem with a race car driver using an artificial leg. Disabled athletes are welcome to compete and they can even excel. Jim Abbott had a fine career in the major leagues, despite not having a right hand. I think that is great. However, I would be opposed to permitting a disabled pitcher, who is missing his pitching hand, to use as artificial arm/hand/jai alai basket to pitch. The CAS decision is akin to allowing a disable athlete to use an artificial arm/hand/jai alai basket, as long as his pitches are slower than the fastest in the league and his breaking ball breaks a few inches less than the best pitcher. Does the line only get drawn when I start to threaten the leaders? That's the way I read it. From the press release: "Finally, the CAS Panel does not exclude the possibility that . . . the IAAF might in the future be in the position to prove that the [blades] provides Oscar Pistorius with an advantage over other athletes." This is also my reading of paras. 83 and 99 of the decision. They had scientists to [meaningfully compare the relatively simple devices to the shin/calf/ankle/foot]. My original point is not refuted by the Panel opinion. The decision stated my point in paragraph 96: "it appears impracticable to assess definitively whether the [device] acts as more than, or less than, the human ankle and lower leg, in terms of 'spring-like' quality." The sides tried to prove or refute an "unfair advantage." How do you prove what is fair and unfair?

posted by Aardhart at 03:16 PM on May 18

Why don't we do this. At the Belmont Stakes coming up soon, we run a field half filled with horses, and the other half with greyhounds. Except the greyhounds, because they are smaller, get to use a special device which makes each one of their strides roughly equal to that of Big Brown. Does anyone think this is going to happen? Of course not. Why? It is not because greyhounds should not be allowed to race, rather, it is because greyhound racing is a different sport, and it is only through technology that the two sports can be melded. Paralympic racing, that is racing with specialized prothesis, is a sport seperate from able bodied racing. When Pistorius runs against other paralympians, each uses or at least has access to the same technology. They have the same condition. They all approach the race and their training the same way. Able bodied racers do all of this differently. While there are similarities between able-bodied and paralympic racing, at its heart, they are completely seperate (ie., using legs as propulsion v. using aids as propulsion). Pistorius's event is more similar therefore to cycling then to able-bodied racing. He should be kept seperate not because of an unfair advantage gained, but rather because it is mixing two distinct events.

posted by Chargdres at 08:49 AM on May 19

The sides tried to prove or refute an "unfair advantage." No, they have to prove an overall advantage in a race. No such advantage has been proven. Evidence exists based on the metabolic tests that he has no advantage. Evidence exists that Pistorius has an advantage in part of a race, but that he has a disadvantage in another part of the race. CAS wants to see evidence of a net advantage. The scientist agreed that a more effective experiment accounting for the advantages and disadvantages of the legs could have been designed. IAAF chose not to do that, so they lost for now. The idea that everything is excluded unless proven that it has no advantage is backwards because it would have to apply to everything, including shoes, shorts, shirts, earrings, and jewelry.

posted by bperk at 09:46 AM on May 19

As long as we're dueling analogies, what if Pistorius was deaf and required a hearing aid to hear the starter's gun? If that's OK because it's a mechanical aid that conveys no advantage to Pistorius over other runners, why can't he run if his blades are ruled scientifically to convey no mechanical advantange over other runners?

posted by rcade at 12:00 PM on May 19

No, they have to prove an overall advantage in a race. No such advantage has been proven. Evidence exists based on the metabolic tests that he has no advantage. "Advantage" has the same problem whether it is modified by "unfair" or not. What does it mean? I believe that it means "faster" which should be determined by a race, not by an arbitration. What relevance does metabolic tests have to do with the issue? I do not care if one runner burns calories faster or not. I do not care if a Tour de France cyclist has a larger lung capacity or slower heart rate than Lance Armstrong. It is whether they can run faster or ride faster. The blades change the meaning of run, and give Pistorius an advantage. Evidence exists that Pistorius has an advantage in part of a race, but that he has a disadvantage in another part of the race. He was faster in the second half and slower in the first half. The idea that everything is excluded unless proven that it has no advantage is backwards because it would have to apply to everything, including shoes, shorts, shirts, earrings, and jewelry. The idea that everything should be excluded unless all athletes have access to it and could choose to use it or not. The decision was clearly limited to allow only Pistorius to use the blades. As long as we're dueling analogies, what if Pistorius was deaf and required a hearing aid to hear the starter's gun? As I originally wrote "It is about preserving the whole point of the race. Running is about running." Hearing aids should be fine in a track meet, not fine in a hearing contest. Artificial legs should be fine in an Indy race or hearing contest, not fine in a running race.

posted by Aardhart at 02:23 PM on May 19

There are no (meaningful) degrees of hearing the gun. You hear it or you don't. I'm aware that some people hear better than others, but I think we're getting into spurious territory if anyone reckons hearing the gun better will confer a significant advantage in a 400m race. The running of the race though is something where the degree of better or worse is observable and measurable. It's something where some people do it better than other people, and identifying the people who do it better is part of why they race. To say it's OK for anyone who's not as good as the others to be mechanically aided to within a second of being as good seems entirely contradictory to the point not only of the race, but also of their endeavor. On preview, much more succinctly put by Aardhart when he says "hearing aids would be fine in a track meet, not fine in a hearing contest".

posted by JJ at 02:36 PM on May 19

As long as we're dueling analogies, what if Pistorius was deaf and required a hearing aid to hear the starter's gun? If that's OK because it's a mechanical aid that conveys no advantage to Pistorius over other runners, why can't he run if his blades are ruled scientifically to convey no mechanical advantange over other runners? Hearing is not the central facet of the race. Running, with legs, is. The question of whether an advantage is gained or not is not the issue here, or at least I contend it should not be. Cycling, over a short distance like 100m, would not likely be any faster than a top runner, because of the difficulty in starting on a bike. But no one would ever suggest that a person be allowed to use a bicycle in the 100m dash, because cycling uses a different means of propulsion than does running. It is a differnt event. Paralympians use a device to allow them to move. Paralympians like Pistorious are incredible athletes, but Pistorious is attempting to compete against people in a different sport from that he intends to frame himself in.

posted by Chargdres at 04:35 PM on May 19

A couple of decades ago there was a world class breast-stroke swimmer in Australia, who was almost totally deaf. Her name was Cindy-Lou Fitzpatrick, and I think she made the Olympic team on a couple of occasions. Back in those days, there weren't any waterproof hearing aids, so at race starts, she used to watch the other swimmers on the blocks, and note their legs tensing and body position to follow the "Set, Go" commands. It's probably not relevant, but an interesting story. And I think she used to win by half a pool length in the disabled events.

posted by owlhouse at 04:42 PM on May 19

Hearing is not the central facet of the race. Running, with legs, is. That's your definition. Why is your definition more credible than the CAS, a body much closer to the issue that has at this stage decided he can compete? Sports bodies decide all the time in Olympic sports which equipment is permissible and which isn't. If blades are ruled permissible when the process has run its course, I do not think that the events he is in will cease to be running. To say it's OK for anyone who's not as good as the others to be mechanically aided to within a second of being as good seems entirely contradictory to the point not only of the race, but also of their endeavor. So if he's as good as the others, it proves he had an unfair advantage, but if he isn't as good then it was fair? Catch 22.

posted by rcade at 06:39 PM on May 19

While I'm probably on your side of the argument, rcade, and not with the folks arguing that handicapped people are awful and should be put down like dogs, I think that's an uncharitable framing of the argument: if Oscar weren't good, this would never come up.

posted by yerfatma at 07:44 PM on May 19

Why is your definition more credible than the CAS, a body much closer to the issue that has at this stage decided he can compete? The case was decided by three prestigious lawyers, not by anyone with specialized track knowledge. David W. Rivkin (of the big New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP) was on the panel. There was also a British member and a Swiss member. (Profiles are available on the CAS website.) I don't think any panel member was deeply involved in track or was a scientist or engineer. They were essentially jury members who are probably very good lawyers. I'm pretty sure I am qualified to say that running is an essential part of a 400-m track race and that running depends on legs. More of my reasoning is above. A sports body that actually decided the issue, the IAAF (the International Association of Athletics Federations), ruled that the blades were not allowed. the folks arguing that handicapped people are awful and should be put down like dogs Yerfatma, will you ever stop beating your wife? if Oscar weren't good, this would never come up. No one disputes that Oscar is good or that his achievements are remarkable. The only question is whether "running" with mechanical legs should be permitted in the Olympic running events. The answer from the CAS seems to be: yes, as long as he cannot beat the other Olympic runners. Regardless of other metabolic tests mentioned in the decision, "advantage" seems to come down to overall time.

posted by Aardhart at 09:43 PM on May 19

So if he's as good as the others, it proves he had an unfair advantage, but if he isn't as good then it was fair? That seems to be the CAS's position! That's part of the reason I'm having trouble with this. If the basis for deciding what's permissible and what isn't comes down to time, then Oscar, and anyone else who follows using mechanical aids, seems condemned to be permitted to run on the blades until he becomes a threat, and then they'll make them illegal. I don't see any benefit there either for him or the sport. The biggest problem with this discussion mind you seems to revolve around the notion that to say "Oscar shouldn't run" is tantamount to saying that handicapped people are awful and should be put down like dogs. Knowing yerfatma, I'm presuming his tongue was firmly in his cheek when he expressed it that way, but it strikes a fundamental truth of this discussion. It's OK to identify difference here. It doesn't make you a Nazi to say that strapping 18 inches of carbon fibre onto the end of whatever you were blessed (or cursed) with by way of legs shouldn't be allowed in a running race. I can't reconcile the American ruthless inability to accept a draw in sport with its seeming desire not to impose the role of "loser" on anyone. Oscar lost the physical lottery when it came to legs. That's a tough break, but the sorrow I feel for his plight and the admiration I have for what he's done to conquer it aren't sufficient reason to put him in the race. Athletics has plenty of problems at the moment already with spectators never being quite sure if what they just saw was valid because no one knows who is juicing and who isn't anymore. It's going to a whole new level if, after Oscar wins a race, they have to go and weigh his legs to make sure he's not been cheating.

posted by JJ at 04:23 AM on May 20

I can't reconcile the American ruthless inability to accept a draw in sport with its seeming desire not to impose the role of "loser" on anyone. Oscar lost the physical lottery when it came to legs. That's a tough break I think at least a bit of it* is born of a guilty feeling about all those kids coming back from Iraq with prosthetic limbs. We'd like to believe a full and happy life awaits them. * For me, anyway.

posted by yerfatma at 06:32 AM on May 20

I'd like to think so too, but I'd question the notion that one has to compete in the Olympics to lead a full and happy life.

posted by JJ at 08:02 AM on May 20

A sports body that actually decided the issue, the IAAF (the International Association of Athletics Federations), ruled that the blades were not allowed. What's the point of the boldface? If you're trying to suggest that the IAAF is sports related while the CAS isn't, the name of the group is the Court of Arbitration for Sport. I fail to see why you give credence to the IAAF but you deny it to the CAS. That makes no sense.

posted by rcade at 01:17 PM on May 20

I fail to see why you give credence to the IAAF but you deny it to the CAS. The CAS is not a sports body. It is an arbitration body. The panel that made this decision consisted of three prestigious lawyers with expertise in law and arbitration and, as far as I can tell, had no expertise in track, biomechanics, or sports. The IAAF Council is actually a sports body that regulates track. It's members clearly have expertise in running. I am not the one that first invoked the expertise of a sports body, you were, rcade. Your point that the CAS is "a body much closer to the issue" is not true. The panel listened to more evidence, but I do not think the panel has significant track expertise. The IAAF Council, on the other hand, does. If you want to invoke the expertise of a sports body in this issue (which you did), the IAAF is the only sports body that can credibly be invoked. If you're trying to suggest that the IAAF is sports related while the CAS isn't . . . Yep. That's pretty much it. Check the profiles of the CAS panel. Check the profiles of the IAAF Council. Which one has a track & field world record holder and another Olympic gold medalist?

posted by Aardhart at 05:13 PM on May 20

If you want to invoke the expertise of a sports body in this issue (which you did), the IAAF is the only sports body that can credibly be invoked. A sports body that's subjected to the judgment of the CAS. The court was established in 1984 by the International Olympic Committee to provide impartial judgments on sports-related matters like the one we're discussing here. Attacking the authority of the CAS is a dodge. The claim it isn't a sports organization is absurd. My position is that Pistorius deserves a fair hearing up through all the processes available to him, and the fact that he's won this round under the CAS should be given as much credence as the original IAAF round barring him. Excluding an athlete from the Olympics because of the prosthetic he uses sends a message to all other athletes who compete in sport with similar aids at all level of sports. Before Pistorius is excluded, the proof of unfair advantage should be rock solid. The idea that he should be excluded simply because his blades don't meet some arbitrary definitions of "running" is a crying shame. Sports wrestle with mechanical issues all the time. It's like claiming that golf stopped being golf when they stopped using gutta percha balls.

posted by rcade at 06:10 PM on May 20

One more question ... I'm pretty sure I am qualified to say that running is an essential part of a 400-m track race and that running depends on legs. I'm not clear on why you'd consider your personal definition of running more relevant than the judgment of the bodies that decide this matter. If the IAAF had found no unfair advantage in Pistorius' blades, would you support its decision even though it doesn't fit your definition of running?

posted by rcade at 06:16 PM on May 20

The claim [that the CAS] isn't a sports organization is absurd. What sports expertise does Professor Martin Hunter, Mr. Jean-Philippe Rochat, or Mr. David W. Rivkin have? How else did CAS's sports-ness affect the decision. The arbitrators' lack of sports expertise might be a good thing. That is the theory of why we have juries made up of peers rather than criminal or legal experts. However, the claim that we should defer to the CAS decision because of its superior sports knowledge is baseless. The IAAF clearly screwed up repeatedly. It drafted an ambiguous rule and commissioned a "scientific study" for "evidence" to exclude Pistorius, rather than just confront the issue theoretically. However, it is unpalateable to make the decision without "scientific evidence." It makes you look like you hate the disabled. If the IAAF had found no unfair advantage in Pistorius' blades, would you support its decision . . . . No. I still don't know what "advantage" means. (The IAAF screwed up using that term in relation to other athletes. An athlete cannot win a race without a biomechanical advantage over the other athletes. Therefore, Pistorius cannot run in the Olympics if he can win. But he cannot win, or even qualify, so he therefore has no advantage over other athletes, and he can be permitted to participate.) And I'm done with this thread. Peace.

posted by Aardhart at 09:54 AM on May 21

What sports expertise does Professor Martin Hunter, Mr. Jean-Philippe Rochat, or Mr. David W. Rivkin have? How else did CAS's sports-ness affect the decision. A better question - what expertise would they need to gain your admission of authority? I don't see the IAAF suggesting it's a body that is to be ignored. I would suggest that CAS is doing the job it is supposed to. I still don't know what "advantage" means. (The IAAF screwed up using that term in relation to other athletes. An athlete cannot win a race without a biomechanical advantage over the other athletes. Therefore, Pistorius cannot run in the Olympics if he can win. But he cannot win, or even qualify, so he therefore has no advantage over other athletes, and he can be permitted to participate.) That sounds particularly confusing, and admittedly, I'm not sure that this is the rubric. The point is simply that the blades, according to this decision, provide no unfair advantage in the running of the race. I take this to mean that they are muscle driven and provide no extra spring-like propulsion. You would appear to take 'advantage' as conceptual and apply it such a fashion as to reach the above conclusion. I don't think it's that difficult.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 05:07 PM on May 21

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