Monday, January 14, 2008

Not having any feet at all gives you an advantage - imagine that!

Oscar Pistorius, "the fastest thing on no legs", has been ruled ineligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics, and perhaps in any able-bodied event at all. He has been competing in able-bodied events for the past three years...but I guess placing 2nd at the South African National Championships last year made the two-leggers a little nervous.


Mike W. said...

Personally I don't see how having artificial legs gives him any advantage other than wind resistance. Sure they're lighter than real legs, but he still only has half a leg with which to propel himself.

Those look like they'd be hard as hell to walk on, much less run. Plus he has half of his leg muscles missing. I'd consider that a disadvantage.

Breda said...

Mike, you'd think missing half of your legs might be a disadvantage, huh?

Also, these legs are for running only.

BobG said...

Maybe the people who ruled him ineligible should try running on short stilts (or even platform shoes) and see how much of an "advantage" they have.

ankhorite said...

This makes me too furious to say much.

In the Casey Martin golfing case, the sporting elite wanted him gone because he needed an accommodation on an issue not directly related to the essence of the game. Here, Pistorius isn't even asking for that much, and they still just want him gone.

"Make Them Go Away."

PS: I left you a gun note at your old LJ journal.

Mike W. said...

Exactly Bob, they're pieces of metal attached to your real legs and I'm sure they feel like it.

It's not like these are bionic legs that feel just as natural as those you were born with, only better. I can't imagine how long he had to practice before he could take more than a few steps without falling.

Less said...

"Personally I don't see how having artificial legs gives him any advantage other than wind resistance. Sure they're lighter than real legs, but he still only has half a leg with which to propel himself."

There is a Japanese compnay that makes these things. They are very springy and you can, literally, leap over a car with ease once you get used to 'em...

I agree that folks should compete, but this is a totally skewed playing field... It's not like Karoly Takacs (25 M Rapid Fire pistol) who trained himself to shoot lefty after winning gold shooting righty - that is overcoming odds...

Pogo legs vid on youtube.

DirtCrashr said...

I'm going the other way with a Yay and Good For Him! Being banned by those international weasels and extortionists at the IOC and the damned Beijing Jailhouse Olympics should be taken as an honor - at least that's a silver lining if there is any.

Breda said...

less - I don't think Mr. Pogo Legs is an amputee, is he?

Turk Turon said...

This Olympics guy was referring to him as "The Blade Runner".

Christina LMT said...

This pisses me off on so many levels.

So the IAAF found ONE doctor who supported their views, can't Oscar get a second opinion, for God's sake?! It seem pretty presumptuous for the IAAF to make such an important decision based on one person's opinion, "expert" he may be.

Breda said...

Christina, you make an excellent point!

Less said...

Ugh up late dealing with a crashing server... Mrpogo from the video wasnt an amputee, however that is besides the point... The point was merely that the technology might confer some unfair benefit. Think about it... What if some boxer had metal prosthetics in/on his hands. He doesn't risk breaking a hand and can hit as hard as he wants, further he doesn't worry about parry with his hand directly. Would that be a fair boxing match?

How would you decide what kind of prosthetic woild be a level field?

Ill give the guy credit that he can run like hell... But it might be that the sport isnt just about running.

DirtCrashr said...

There's word that Tiger Woods got his eyes lasixed to a higher than normal 20/20 degree (20/10 or better) and his short game (putting) scores improved a lot - I've also heard there's a bunch of baseball hitters who have done the same thing in order to pick up the ball leaving the pitcher's hand sooner.
Personally I'm over athletics as an entire venue of activity - I throw away the sports page in the Sunday paper and applaud their personal achievement in private.

phlegmfatale said...

Wow. There's a really sexy young woman who lives somewhere near downtown, and she has one of these things for a foot - she's quite fit and seems to be made of kick-assedness. Well-done, I say.

alcibiades mczombie said...

The only way to test if it is an advantage is to get a bunch of other leg-less people, have them wear the attachments, and race leg-able people.

By studying the data, it can be determined if it is an advantage.

Or they could just some experts on human anatomy and tools.

Trebor said...

A couple thoughts:

I remember a similiar story about a high-level archer who lost his right arm in a chainsaw accident (ouch!).

He retought himself to shoot a bow one handed after the accident. He installed a leather strap on the string so he could bite down on the strap to hold the string as he pushed the bow away from himself with his left arm. To release he'd let go of the strap with his teeth.

Other competitors complained because since the bow string was now lined up *exactly* between his eyes, he had an advantage in aiming. Normally you pull the string back to the side of your chin and have to "aim off" a bit to deal with the parrallax. They said this technique gave him an unfair advantage because he now had no parallax issues.

It went to court (I think they banned him and he sued) and the judge ruled that it was NOT an unfair technique because there was no specific rule against it and because *any* of the other competitors could use the same technique if they wished. They didn't have to lop off an arm first. They could just learn to use their mouth to bite on and release the string as he did.

In the archer's case, I think that was an appropriate ruling. His adaptive technique could be used by anyone, if they desired to do so, so there was no unfair advantage.

Trebor said...

Part 2:

In the case of the archer, he was able to compete using an adaptive technique that did not give him any unfair advantage over because they could use the same technique themselves. Pretty clear cut, in my opinon.

In the case of the runner, I don't know if you can say the same thing.

The question isn't so much, "Can a disabled person compete in this (or any) atheltic sport" as "Does this *specific* adaptive technique confer an unfair advantage to this competitor?"

There is nothing in the rules that would prohibit him from competiting if he had no prostheticis at all. Obviously though, he just wouldn't physically be able to do it. No matter how fast he could propel himself with no prostethics, he would not be able to compete with the other athletes.

(Unlike the one-armed baseball pitcher who learned to pitch and field with only one arm and no prosthetics)

Now, the real question is can he compete fairly using the adaptive devices/techniques that he's chosen to use. I think that only can be determined on a case by case basis.

What if instead of prosthetics, he used a very fast powered wheelchair? That's an adaptive device. Obviously they wouldn't allow that and it is a bit of an absurd exageration, but you get the point.

On the other hand, let's say he had a very simple prosthetic. Something like the old "wooden leg." That would definately put him at a disadvantage due to the "deadness" of the prosthetics, but if he was able to run at a competitive level, it *probably* would be allowed.

It's just that the specific bladed prosthetics he uses might actually give him an advantage over the other athletes. The argument seems to be the "springiness" (for lack of a better term) gives him an advantage. Obviously, this is not a technique the other athletes can use (unlike the archer example).

In that case, it's up to the ruling body of the sport to decide. You can make an argument either way, and I'm not convinced that these legs do give him an advantage, but I can see why others may think so and understand the decision that was made.

In athletics, sometimes a disabled athlete is able to find an accomodation that fits within the rules (the archer, the golfer, the one-armed baseball pitcher) and sometimes they can't.

In this case I can understand why advocates for the disabled are upset or disappointed by the ruling. I tend to think that in this specific case, it was the correct decision.

Unfortunately, sometimes life sucks in that not everyone is able to do everything.

Trebor said...

I forgot one other example where a sport could determine that an athlete's accomodation could create an unfair advantage or otherwise be against the rules.

Let's say there's an Olympic level runner with asthma. Let's say she has competed succesfully at the lower levels, but her asthma has worsened to the point where she has lost her ability to run competively due to difficulty breathing when she runs.

Let's say her asthma is only an issue when she is severely exerting herself, like when running in practice or competition, not in day to day life. (She doesn't require treatment to say alive, for instance)

What if she discovers that a simple steriod treatment will clear up her symptoms and allow her to compete? Without the steriod treatment, she not competitive. With the treatment, she is.

(For the sake of argument, please grant that only a steriod treatment will work. This is a thought exercise, not a real person).

Should she be allowed to use her "adaptive device" (i.e. her steriod shot) so she can continue to compete?

Unfortunately for her, steriods are specifically prohibited becase they are performance enhancing.

She could argue that the steriod shots only bring her back up to the level of the other competitors and that they don't give her an advantage. She could argue that any "performance enhancing" ability is lost because the dosage is lower then what is illegally taken to increase performance (and let us assume that is essentially true).

Still, the other athletes claim the steriods still give her an unfair advantage, even at the lower dosage.

Should she be allowed to compete or not? And who decides?

This is not the exact same situation as the athlete with no legs, but it addresses th same issues.

Ultimately the sanctioning body has to make a determination and they should have the right to do so without outside interference.

phlegmfatale said...

Cool, I should have read the comments here before making my comment - didn't realize that type of foot-thingie was just for running, but it makes sense. Isn't it an encouragement to all of us to see people overcome every kind of adversity-- be it illness, accident or personal tragedies-- and just get on with the living of life? I feel inspired.

Geoff said...

Trebor - with your asthma runner hypothetical, there looks to be a variable or slight detail that could be very significant. The type of steroids that improve physical performance are anabolic steroids. The type that are used to treat asthma, rashes, etc. are corticosteroids which operate much differently and in fact, could even hinder her physical abilities. I don't think they would ban her from the use of the latter.