Oscar Pistorius has qualified for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The South African runner will represent his country at the games and is slotted to compete in the 400-meter sprint and as a member of the 400-meter relay team.
And he doesn't have legs.
Oscar Pistorius is a double amputee. He was born without fibulas, and his parents made the agonizing decision to have both his legs amputated when Pistorius was 11 months old. This gave him his best chance to walk normally. Pistorius did learn to walk-and run. The South African runs on carbon fiber prostheses which provide a bit of bounce when walked upon. The carbon fiber "flex-feet" blades store energy when you step, and that energy is delivered as you move your body forward.
Pistorius' story is an inspiring one about a child who learned to walk on prosthetic legs, and then was able to learn to use his prosthetic legs to run in the Olympics. (He also competes in the Paralympics. In fact a Google search for Oscar Pistorius brings you to his website, and the tag line for the site reads, "A South African Paralympic athlete.") We should all be inspired by Oscar's story. Right?
Wrong. Some people are saying that Pistorius, also known as "The Blade Runner," has an unfair advantage because of the energy storage of the carbon fiber prosthetics. Some are arguing that the bouncing of the blades helps to propel him forward, and this propulsion gives him an advantage. Therefore, he should not be allowed to compete against other able-bodied athletes.
In fact, in 2007 Pistorius agreed to undergo a series of tests at the request of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). These tests found that the carbon fiber feet required a lower metabolic expenditure to run on when compared to able-bodied runners.
Pistorius appealed the decision by the IAAF and underwent another series of tests at Rice University which indicated that he fatigued normally and used comparatively the same oxygen when running on the synthetic limbs. This appeal was accepted and he won the right to compete against able-bodied sprinters.
Besides the supposed mechanical advantage of the bouncing effect of the prosthetic limbs, others argue that Pistorius' legs are lighter than actual human legs. This means that he has to move less weight while running, and this is another advantage that Pistorius has over other sprinters.
I heard another argument that Pistorius isn't subjected to other common running injuries like shin splints or Achilles tendonitis, and this could also be an advantage. The lack of certain anatomical body parts means that he also lacks the ability for those parts to fail while sprinting.
Enough is enough. This person was born with a disability. He has effectively erased disability and has turned it into ability. It is difficult to say that someone without legs has an advantage. It is not an advantage when you have to strap on prosthetic limbs every morning to simply walk. Living life with no feet is not an advantage.
Bottom line: Oscar Pistorius is someone who didn't accept his disability. He is someone who learned to run, and run fast enough to qualify to represent his country at the world's premier sporting event. He should run at the Olympics.
So what do you think? Does Oscar Pistorius have an unfair advantage? Should he be allowed to run against able-bodied runners at the 2012 Olympic Games? Take the poll below, and leave a comment to share your thoughts.