Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oscar Pistorius

Another blog that I drafted a few months ago, but never got round to publishing until now.

Oscar Pistorius is a South African Paralympian, who recently one three gold medals at the Paralympics in China. He is famous not for this, but for his prosthetic limbs. Born without some of the bones in his legs, Pistorius’ lower legs were amputated at an early age. He now runs with the ‘Cheetah Flex-foot’ and is nicknamed The Blade Runner.
Scientific testing in 2007 revealed that these prosthetics give him advantages over able-bodies athletes, because they require less energy from the body and do not fatigue. Therefore he was prohibited from competing in the able-bodied Olympics in China. At the time there was much debate, and the most convincing argument I heard was something along the lines of:
‘he has no lower legs, so of course he shouldn’t compete in the Olympics. That’s what the Paralympics are for –athletes with body parts missing or not working. In what other sport would a sportsman be allowed to use machinery to aid his performance where others cannot?’
That made a lot of sense to me. Sport is very competitive, and some people, for whatever reason, are not good enough. For some, they have no lower legs. For most, we’re just not good enough – not skilled, strong, quick enough. That’s how sport works! It tells you who is the best at something. If Pistorius is allowed these prosthetic limbs to help him run faster, I should be allowed something to help me go faster. A bike perhaps? Clearly mad. Unfortunately for Oscar, because he has no lower legs, he is not good enough to compete in the Olympics. However, also because he has no lower legs, he is eligible to compete in the Paralympics, more than can be said for me. He should take his opportunity and stop whining.


kimmie said...

I have many issues with this blog post. One is that many studies show that Oscar does not have an advantage over able bodied athletes. After all he is an amputee. My main problem though is that you very bluntly and offensively devalue the paralympics. The last paragraph "Sport is very competitive, and some people, for whatever reason, are not good enough. For some, they have no lower legs." whether or not Oscar has lower legs does not play into if he is good enough. He is DISABLED and is competing against people who are perfectly ABLE. "Pistorius is allowed these prosthetic limbs to help him run faster.." What do you want him to do run without legs and feet? Of course his legs help him run. Just to be clear your legs help you run. I do agree with you on one thing. Oscar should run in the paralympics, but i do not agree with you reasons. I believe Oscar is talented enough to run in either and has no advantage in either. I simply believe that he is to good for the Olympics. He needs to run somewhere that no one will call him a cheater. He has amazing athletic ability and that needs to be respected.

Unknown said...

I agree that some studies show that he has no advantage over able-bodied athletes, but the studies that the Olympic Officials considered the most reliable showed that he did, and that is why he was banned. Also, maybe I should rephrase that the studies showed that *his Flex-foot* gives him an advantage (when compared to a normal human lower leg). I summarise what the studies found – do you disagree with it?

I think you might misunderstand my main argument.
For a start, can you explain exactly what I said devalues the Paralympics?
Secondly, the fact that Pistorius has no lower legs clearly does come into whether he is good enough – without any additional equipment, he cannot run fast enough to meet the Olympic qualifying standard!
My argument says that there are many reasons why someone is not good enough for the Olympics, so if Pistorius can use the Flex-foot, why shouldn’t I (a decent athlete but nowhere near that good) be allowed to ride a bike?
As you say, of course the legs help him run. Just like a wheelchair helps other disabled athletes compete. I have no problem with these things, but the *Paralympics* is the competition for people who use additional equipment (as well as those who don’t, but compete at a lower standard because of a disability).

You imply that I called Pistorius a cheater. I did no such thing. Also, I don’t appreciate your sarcastic and patronising tone when you say “Just to be clear your legs help you run. I do agree with you on one thing”. I am quite willing to debate this, but please keep it kind and polite.

In summary:
Please explain why you think I devalue the Paralympics.
Please reply to my main argument about use of additional equipment.