The 25-year-old double amputee — known around the world as Blade Runner — finished an impressive 8th place in the men’s 400-meter semifinals earlier this week, finishing in a laudable 46.54 seconds. And critics are still wondering if allowing him to participate using Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs is opening the floodgates for technological aids for Olympic athletes.
But are these artificial legs really an unfair advantage?
His inclusion does clear the way for other amputee runners to compete on this world stage. And while it seems obvious to applaud and even champion such accomplishments, encouraging other amputees to chase this abled-body dream, I can understand the debate.
For starters, I think it’s absolutely absurd to think that this guy — whose lower legs were amputated as a baby after he was born without the fibula bones in his shins — has any unfair advantage. I don’t think he’s consider not having legs as an “advantage,” let alone an unfair one. It infuriates me to think that we can even criticize or accuse someone for doing something that’s already difficult for athletes with two good legs.
That said, the argument may not be about whether double amputees — or any disabled person — should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. (Of course they should!) It’s about the diabolical folks who will try to bend the rules to allow able-bodied athletes to use technology to gain an edge.
At least that’s what I think this debate is about.
Otherwise, I can’t say why anyone would ever think someone without two legs would have an unfair advantage. I wouldn’t trade my two working legs for blades, even pricey, Olympic-quality ones.
Maybe we have to stop thinking the worst of people — that Pistorius wants to cheat to win Olympic gold — and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe all he wants is to be a normal athlete. What’s the harm in that?