Double amputee Oscar Pistorius cleared to run in individual 400m in London Olympics

Submitted by go16blue on July 4th, 2012 at 7:31 PM



Personally I think this is extremely stupid, and only possible due to misguided political correctness. Even though he wont win a race (likely part of why he's allowed to compete), I would bet money that he is better with the prosthetics than he was before them, and 3rd party research shows that they offer a clear competitive advantage (link). The mech might not be good enough to win a race now, but in a few years it probably will, and what then? I think it's a terrible decision that sets a terrible precedent. Your thoughts?



July 4th, 2012 at 7:38 PM ^

I opened this thread expecting the OP to go on about how great it is that they’re giving him a chance, and how inspirational it is that a double amputee is participating in the Olympics. Really refreshing to see the direction this went instead. I too feel like this is a questionable decision.

Rick's American Cafe

July 4th, 2012 at 8:02 PM ^

While the general concept of a double amputee competing in the Olympics is amazing and awesome, you also have to look at what is fair to the other competitors.  It's been established that the blades give him an unnatural advantage not available to the other competitors.  And don't say, "Well life wasn't fair to Oscar!"  Because life being fair, and a competition being fair, are two separate issues.


July 4th, 2012 at 8:17 PM ^

You didn't read the article. Or you conveniently left out the part where the blades slow him down at the start. Also your lifes not fair argument trumps your competition not being fair. I'm sure there are athletes from many countries that complain about the fairness of having access to the coaching, facilities, and supplements of some of the more wealthy countries. If you think modern sports are really about fairness, you haven't been paying attention.

Rick's American Cafe

July 4th, 2012 at 9:55 PM ^

Uh, no... I read the press release from the IAAF, and it's pretty clear.  I'll take research data over a vague statement of "Well, it's harder for him to get up to speed."  Until they quantify that statement, it really doesn't tell us very much.

And if we don't have a level playing field, then we have nothing.  I agree that he's overcome a lot of adversity.  But the Olympics are not about "Who's overcome the most adversity?", they're about "Who's the best?"

"It is evident that an athlete using the Cheetah prosthetic is able to run at the same speed as able bodied athletes with lower energy consumption. Running with prosthetic blades leads to less vertical motion combined with less mechanical work for lifting the body. As well as this, the energy loss in the blade is significantly lower than in the human ankle joints in sprinting at maximum speed. An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30%) when compared to someone not using the blade.

IAAF Council has been able to review the full report and has decided that the prosthetic blades known as “cheetahs” should be considered as technical aids in clear contravention of IAAF Rule 144.2. As a result, Oscar Pistorius is not eligible to compete in competitions organised under IAAF Rules."


Rick's American Cafe

July 4th, 2012 at 8:14 PM ^

I totally agree.  I think just about everyone would rather have legs and not be an Olympian than not have legs and be an Olympian.  But as I said, that's NOT the point of what I was saying.  The point is that the Olympics should be a level playing field.  You're mixing up two different issues.  

Someone is being treated "unfairly" in this situation, no matter how things play out.  Either Oscar is getting treated unfairly in a "life" sense, or the other 400m runners are getting treated unfairly because they have to race against someone with an unnatural advantage.  Suppose Oscar has the race of his life, and wins a medal.  What about the guy who's busted his ass his entire life, but misses out on an Olympic medal because one of his competitors had an unfair advantage?  That's not a particularly fair situation.

It's just a judgement question, and there is a reasonable argument on each side.  


July 4th, 2012 at 8:08 PM ^

If south Africa wants to let him run, let him run. I'm pretty sure people won't start cutting off their limbs to become Olympic athletes. If he goes fast enough to not be an embarrassment, let the guy run. This isn't political correctness. It's about the strenght and will of a human doing extraordinary things. That's what Olympics have always been and I feel this is a perfect example of the power of the human spirit and body.


July 4th, 2012 at 8:16 PM ^

"this is a perfect example of the power of the human spirit and body."

And of technology making us better.  As much as I would like for it to be equal, the fact of the matter is that these prosthetics can give athletes a competitive advantage, same as someone who wears fins when swimming.


July 4th, 2012 at 8:20 PM ^

The fact of the matter is it gives him a competitive advantage. I'm amazed that he's been able to get so far despite so much adversity, but that's what the disabled olympics are for. He's made great accomplishments, but it's still silly that he's allowed to run for the same reason that it would be silly for me to qualify gor the high jump with rocket boots.


July 4th, 2012 at 8:24 PM ^

As a para I side with those saying it's an unfair advantage and life difficulties has nothing to do with the argument for or against. Folks in wheelchairs crush runners. Should they be allowed to dominate marathons? It's a slippery slope.


July 4th, 2012 at 8:25 PM ^

You know what if having no legs gives you such a competitive advantage how about everyone chops off their legs to run faster...this guy has been through so much adversity he deserves the chance to compete.


July 5th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

How he came to have prosthetic legs is neither here nor there.  People shouldn't let the sympathy argument cloud their judgment.  The man is competing using non-natural means.     I don't see this as much different from a guy using HGH as a treatment for a medical condition and then turning out to be a superstar athlete as a side benefit. 



July 4th, 2012 at 8:34 PM ^

I will say, for a sport that has a history of its competitors using technology (often of the illegal chemical variety) to artificially improve performance, I'm surprised people are so outraged that this violates the sanctity of the sport.

And while I understand the slippery slope argument to a degree (you hear about countries purposely altering the physiology of its athletes in sports where weight categories exist to increase the likelihood of success), I doubt you'll see athletes purposely removing feet or arms to replace with prostethics.  This kid lost his legs before he was 1; he didn't add the Cheetah blades to gain some advantage over his competition.  I'm sure if an athlete in his/her mid-20's replaced some bones with metal, the IOC would take a second look at his/her eligibility.


July 5th, 2012 at 2:46 PM ^

I don't follow your reasoning in the first paragraph.  Are you suggesting that people have always been OK with runners doping up?  Does anyone sympathize with Ben Johnson or Marion Jones?

Using any kind of non-natural performance enhancement should not be allowed.  Incidentally, this man does not wear the special spring-mounted prosthetics all the time; he only uses them when he races.


July 5th, 2012 at 8:37 PM ^

My point is that track has a history of performance-enhancing issues and, if people honestly cared about the "sanctity of competition", would look with a suspicious eye at everyone who competes.  I mean, it always made me laugh when people freaked out about the Tour De France, as if the doping at the top wasn't also being done by teh guys who finish 4 hours behind the leaders - a number of them cheat as well, but it just doesn't make the difference at the top (which is where everyone looks).  

All that said - I'm a huge T&F fan, and I want to see the best compete out there.  This feels like a rare occurence but one in which an individual with clear limitations is still competing at a record level.  Sure, the springs give him some physical advantages compared to a full-bodied competitor, but he also has more trouble than the average runner in getting up to speed, has far less range of motion in case conditions are not optimal and he has to change direction quickly, and (I'm guessing) other physical limitations that simply come from missing part of his anatomy.  That isn't to say that he deserves to compete because he has displayed some indomitable spirit - he's clocking world-class times doing basically the same motions as everyone else.  I'm fine seeing him out there, just like people are fine seeing him never competing in international competition.  The great thing about life is that after the Olympics nobody will care and nobody's lives will be scarred forever.

And as for the fact he only wears them part of the time, a athletes don't wear singlets and track spikes all the time either, and those give them advantages on a track.  I know it's not a 100% corrolary and this might be a bit facetious, but I don't see why his choice to not always wear footwear specifically designed for an event is somehow evidence against his case to compete.


snarling wolverine

July 5th, 2012 at 10:15 PM ^

You cannot possibly compare a pair of shoes with his prosthetics, which take the place of the entire leg below the knee.  His prosthetics weigh far less than a normal leg, require 25% less energy per step, and can't register pain or fatigue.  The effect they have on him is far beyond a man putting on a pair of shoes; it's more like someone getting on a bicycle.


As for the "no one will care after the Olympics" bit, maybe casual fans won't care, but I suspect his competitors will care a whole lot. How'd you like to lose to a guy who is literally part machine?


July 6th, 2012 at 10:03 PM ^

Listen, I said the part with the shoes as tongue-in-cheek, but no, I'm not going to agree that these blades are like giving someone a bicycle.  Yes, he runs quicker the second half of the race than the first because of the biomechanical components of the materials, but then again he starts slower than an able-bodied person.  So people discredit him for any advantage he received and ignore any detractions.  

Again, I'm not trying to say that he should be able to compete BECAUSE he has these false limbs; I don't buy the whole "olympic spirit" argument because it long ago became a combination of chemistry labs and nationalistic junk-swinging.  But what I'm saying is that if he is meeting the times, then let him compete.  At some point in the future I'm sure some athlete will show up who has a disability and whose artificial replacements make him/her better than a full-bodied human, and there we'll have to deal with it.  But in the interim, barring a guy because of some esoteric and antiquated notions of "fairness" in a competition centered around running faster than other people seems silly.


July 6th, 2012 at 10:10 PM ^

And as an addendum, where is the outrage when people compete with metal screws in their legs or who have undergone surgeries to correct injuries and in the process make them better than they were before?  I don't see people freaking out about Tommy John Surgery (which arguably is as unnatural as metal blades, unless you believe taking tendons from cadaver's legs is natural), or the myriad of surgeries and medical aids olympians receive during preparation.  If you look at  competitive swimmers, for example, many of them had surgeries to replace shoulder and back injuries they sustained during training, and with some of these they received "unnatural" remedies.  Guys break their legs and have screws put in to stabilize to a degree that exceeds bone.  

So yeah, maybe I'm ignoring the "obvious" differences here, but save me the implict argument that this somehow pollutes the competition because it is unnatural.

snarling wolverine

July 5th, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

I doubt you'll see athletes purposely removing feet or arms to replace with prostethics.

Well of course not. No respectable doctor would ever amputate for non-medical reasons; that would be a serious breach of ethics and might cause a doctor to be barred from the profession.

There exists an opportunity for people with serious medical handicaps like Pistorius; it's the Paralympics. What this whole story seems to be telling us is that not enough people pay attention to the Paralympics.  If they attracted bigger audiences, he probably wouldn't be looking to compete in the regular Olympics.


July 5th, 2012 at 8:54 PM ^

Maybe not in the US, but I'm fairly certain that less scrupulous countries could have doctors willing to perform such operations.  I'm not saying they would, but winning means a lot to people.

I agree that the lower profile for the Paralympics is a factor, but at the same time the differences in performance between the able-bodied and the handicapable typically are more pronounced than in this instance.  The top 100m time is 9.58s; for paralympians, it is about a second and a half slower (which wouldn't qualify you for the finals).  At the 400m range, though, Pistorius is far more competitive, and as part of a very good South African relay he's probably no different than a similar able-bodied performer.  My point is that he's not really given an advantage - he's an average runner who you could replace with a similar runner reasonably easily.  Maybe that's a point against him being included, but to me, if the guy made the times you asked and he can compete with the big boys, then let him.  He'll probably run an average leg (or slightly below), and that should be enough.


July 4th, 2012 at 10:44 PM ^

For everyone pulling the empathetic compassion card as to why he belongs at the games, we are not hating him or being angry with him; we're just stating that fact that he clearly should not be allowed to compete because of the competitive technological advantage.  I feel for the guy and I'm sure he would rather have his legs than compete in London under these circumstances, but you can't just throw the integrity of the sport out the window because you feel compassion, empathy, pity, etc. for someone's situation.  I wish he had other guys in his situation that he could compete with--he probably does but he's just so much better than them... Remember, elite individual sport athletes have to deal with that lack of competition sometimes, too...


July 5th, 2012 at 8:58 PM ^

You can't say this


fact that he clearly should not be allowed to compete because of the competitive technological advantage


and then argue this


Remember, elite individual sport athletes have to deal with that lack of competition sometimes, too...


when there are elite athletes ahead of him that he CAN compete with.  Mind you, he won't win, and won't be any better than average compared to them.  But there are men he can compete against, and I kind of doubt they care about beating him with or without his metal legs.  He's a competitor and there are people to compete against - if the point of the Olympics is to foster this competition, then he should compete.  This isn't me pouring my heart out for him; it's just an argument that if someone wants to line up against me an run, then let's do it.  


July 4th, 2012 at 11:03 PM ^

Ask yourself whether you supported the PGA or the ADA in Casey Martin's case against the PGA. Casey Martin had a circulatory disorder which made it detrimental or impossibnle for him to walk long distances. His scores qualified him to join the PGA pro tour, and when he joined, he sued the PGA for the right to use a cart during the third stage of the Q-school and during tournaments.

The PGA held that this granted Casey a competitive advantage, given that a lnother player on the course might walk as much as 20 miles between and along holes over a four day tournament weekend. Anyone who has played 18 holes on a hot day will attest that it's a workout just to walk it.

The supreme court determined that despite the fact that the PGA tour was a private club, the golf courses on which the events were played were public venues required to provide the full extent of handicapped accessibility. The supreme court further ruled that walking between and along holes was not part of the fundamental nature of golf, and since the cart did not assist with Casey's swing, it did not provide a competitive advantage.

As a nearly deaf person, I support the ADA in every way possible. I should have full access to the same venues, events and opportunities as everybody else. However, I don't believe that should I want to play a professional game of "name that tune", that the game operators should be required to provide a visual indicator of the notes. The fundamental nature of the game is such that if works out your ears. Golf works out your body. I don't believe that the PGA should've been forced to provide carts.

Instead, I believe that the PGA should be required to hold differently-abled events that have equal prizes and are given equal time on PGA-affiliated media. The reward and glory should be the same. Whether or not private enterprise wants to buy into that with sponsorships would be up to private enterprise.

To come back to the original point, an archer with one arm is not going to be allowed to use a crossbow to compete in archery. A shootist can wear corrective lenses, but not magnifying ones. A swimmer with one leg cannot wear a prosthetic equipped with a fin. These represent measurable advantages, and until we decide it's alright to ask athletes to disfigure their bodies to improve, they're not acceptable for standard contests.

And when we decide that's okay, will we start allowing steroids? Dangerous "uppers"? Will we allow a football player to carry around rolls of nickles so his hands are heavier when he bats at the ball?

Furthermore, the olympics are a world sport, so even if the ADA and supreme court felt that the stadiums in which they were being held were public, they'd have no right to enforce their own view of right on the competitors. Every nation competing would have to agree to identical stipulations for every case. Because that's not possible, it's not a good idea to let someone in such a position compete in preliminaries. It puts the world in an impossible spot should they win.

Instead, what needs to be done is to elevate the special oplympics to a level on par with that of the regular olympics. NBC has bid the rights for the olympics and in doing so also won the rights to the special olympics. They will be required to devode an equal amount of airtime to each. London bid for and won the 2012 Summer Games. They also have won the 2012 Special Summer Games. They will be required to provide the same venues at equivalent times of day, the same athlete lodging and the same opportunities for meeting dignitaries and other figures. The only difference would be that the Special Olympics have much broader regs for who may compete. "If you do not qualify for the olympics because of a disablility, you are welcome to compete at one of our regional events." The best from there go on to the finals.


July 5th, 2012 at 3:04 PM ^

Geez, talk about comparing apples and oranges...

Casey Martin's case is about whether not having to walk the course was a disadvantage endurance-wise with walking the course versus having a cart.

This is about someone having a device that may allow them to run faster, expend less energy in an event which is directly about endurance rather than golf which is more directly putting a small white ball into a tiny hole.

A good comparison would be if Casey Anthony had a bionic arm that let him crush drives over 400 yards.  Yeah, he'd have lots of problems with his short irons, but it's still an advantage that other golfers don't have.


July 6th, 2012 at 10:37 PM ^

Casey Anthony was acquited of killing her kids; the bionic arm seems a little unnecessary.

As for your analogy about said arm, the difference here is that they don't make him demonostrably better than an able-bodied performer; according to the last news report, there's little chance he''ll get out of his heat.  

But regardless, the whole "unfair advantage" argument seems silly to me either way.  He doesn't have half of his legs; that is a disadvantage.  And as someone who had run 400m races for years, while it is more an endurance race than the 100m, it's not like a marathon either.  He's still going to feel pain in his quads, in his arms and upper body, and he's still going to be fighting the same elements as everyone else.  And sure, the pure energy output will be different than an able-bodied entrant, but I'm guessing that his complete lack of fine-motor control below his thighs might degrade some of his energy output in a way that full-bodied people do not.


July 4th, 2012 at 11:39 PM ^

That just seems to be in poor taste.  Double dipping like that.  

The ideal thing to do would be to set a standard for replacement running legs and after the race the legs are impounded.  If the replacements are found to exceed the abilities of the natural limp in anyway, you are DQed and banned.  However I'm not sure if we have that level of technology yet and if we don't tough luck to Oscar.  


July 5th, 2012 at 1:07 AM ^


herpa derpa doo... "I better go lay down on the railroad tracks so I can get ready for Rio 2016" said nobody anywhere 


July 5th, 2012 at 9:57 AM ^

1. If his blades were de-engineered to not be so efficient, would that be okay with everyone?

2. If Jon Falk gives Denard something to put at the end of his legs that gives him an advantage over Ohio State (like long cleats for muddy days), is that okay with everyone?


July 5th, 2012 at 10:08 AM ^

If this is an unfair advantage due to technology, then any pitcher whos had Tommy Johns should be removed from baseball, as studies show it improves your speed. Also anyone whos had lasik should be banned as it can make your vision better than 20/20. Every sport has unfair advantages that are overlooked daily.


July 5th, 2012 at 10:12 AM ^

Wasn't this a four years ago argument?

I thought originally they decided the blades gave him an advantage but then through further testing decided that it didn't and he would be allowed to compete.


July 5th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

But I found this line to be pretty funny-


I would bet money that he is better with the prosthetics than he was before them

No bet, I think he is faster now than he was when he had no legs at all.