After leaving the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games with gold medals in the 100, 200, and 400 metre sprints, runner Oscar Pistorius set his sights on a much greater challenge. Blade Runner, as he’s known around the track, is poised to participate in the 2012 Summer Olympics for the first time – but not without controversy.
While it is definitely a feel good story – a legless Paralympian running in the Olympics – fans of the Games are not really sure how good to feel. There’s concern over Pistorius’ inclusion, as it pits human physique against prosthetic technology. Fair play in sports, especially at the Olympics, is the foundation that provides a level playing field among athletes. That foundation, however, is being called into question here.
The argument against having Pistorius compete is not out of fear of having him win – in fact, despite his phenomenal speed, the numbers say he doesn’t really stand a chance of winning. It’s about the future. Pistorius’s inclusion in the Games isn’t all that uncomfortable this time around, but what precedent is it setting? What happens in the near future when technology improves?
Eventually, Paralympians may be able to rely on technology for gold, creating an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes.
Is it a good thing that the International Olympic Committee is attempting to establish parity among its
most skilled athletes, and give a determined man the chance to prove he can be all he can be? Of course. Is it a good thing that they’re messing with the foundation of fair play? Well, that’s up for debate.