January 10, 2008

Blade Runner to be Denied Chance at Olympics

A man with two prosthetic lower legs will be denied the opportunity to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing following a final ruling by IAAF. Oscar Pistorius of South Africa is able to run times comparable with the other athletes, but the world governing body of track is likely to decide that the devices give him an unfair advantage over the other runners.

After what must have been a lifetime of pain and struggle after being born without fibulas, it is particularly cruel that Oscar will be denied entry because of his artificial legs. The blood, sweat, and tears it must have cost him to reach the point of even being considered are probably beyond a healthy, fully-developed person's comprehension. He has spent his life trying to walk and look like other men, and now IAAF is ruling he's better than everyone else?

His prosthetics are curved pieces of metal that IAAF claims are stronger and flex better than the human foot, providing him with more spring in his step than an ordinary athlete.

Unfortunately for Oscar, I think this ruling is correct. If IAAF sets the precedent that artificial legs are permissible, how do they turn down a man with even springier prosthetics who could dominate the high jump? Modern medicine is able to create body parts much more advanced (at least for a specific purpose like jumping) than the original, so IAAF is correct to say that the playing field would not be level. However, this will be increasingly difficult to judge in the future. For example, many people have pins to support previously broken extremities. What if the metal provides more strength or better flexibility in the new bone than is possible in a natural bone?

2 Responses:

Brien said...

The examples I always hear of unfair medical technologies are Tommy John surgery and laser vision correction to better than 20/20.

J-Red said...

I'm surprised this went as far as it did. I'm glad he has been able to achieve near normal function in his legs, but it would be an apples and oranges race if they let him compete.

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