The case of Oscar Pistorius is one that sets a new and interesting precedent for the Olympics, and for the world in general. Not the case of murder, but the case of a disabled athlete running in competition – and coming out victorious – against able bodied athletes at the top of the world. The 2012 London Games could usher in a new era in the Olympics, and the world… or they could usher in an entirely new division in the way the world views “humanity.”
Pistorius’ prosthetics were at first counted against him in the same category as performance enhancers, with fair scientific reasoning behind it. His carbon fiber and titanium Cheetah’s weigh less than half of what an able bodied runner’s lower leg weighs, which allows him to swing his leg an average of .11 seconds faster than any sprinter with flesh and blood legs. However, there are a number of downsides that mitigate the speed he can manage in a straight line – he cannot run well in wet weather, he can’t stop well, and it takes him more time than most of his competitors to speed up or slow down.
Pistorius – a man who has no leg bones below the knee, holds the current record for his current event, proving that people who are defined as “disabled” by much of the world can in fact match and outdo able bodied people at the top of their abilities. Whats especially interesting, is that if you compare Oscar Pistorius to the definitions of “disability” within the Americans with Disabilities Act – “whether an impairment substantially impairs a major life activity”,
(US Legislative Dept.) defining a “major
life activity as including,
but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing,
hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, and working.”
He can breathe, work, perform manual tasks, and for all intents and purposes,
so long as he has his prosthetics, is able bodied. In his own words in an
interview, Pistorius said that he “is not disabled by his disability, but able
by his abilities.” (Complete News
This is great for Pistorius and others like him – Such as the dozens of other Paralympic runners with prosthetic limbs. In a sense, their prostheses can be called performance enhancers – they quite literally enhance someone without the ability to walk, much less run – and they don’t only enhance physical performance. For someone born with a birth defect, or disabled by an accident, the confidence and spiritual enhancement that can come of that functionality being restored can be a massive impetus for them. From an interview with another paralympian and celebrity, Aimee Mullins, “it’s not in spite of or despite their conditions” that makes them push as hard or harder as the able bodied to be extraordinary because of it.
(Thnkr) She was born with the same condition as
Pistorius, the fibulae of her legs missing, and working against able bodied
peers and competitors, became a celebrity icon, doing everything from fashion modeling
to continuing to run competitively.
The original ruling barring Pistorius from competing was one placed by the IAAF – International Association of Athletics Federations, on the grounds that his blades gave him a mechanical advantage and was overturned by the CAS – The Court of Arbitration for Sport – which is the highest tribunal of world sports in an appeal by Pistorius. The possibility of The secondary ramifications if such a ruling had been allowed to stand could have been destructive, and might well have given a precedent necessary to allow the declaration that people with prostheses or missing body parts were no longer entirely human, and so would be disqualified from participation in the Olympics, from potentially being classified with the rest of us. It makes sense to separate athletes based upon able bodied and disabled to a degree – it keeps things on a level playing field, and ensures that there is no hint of a decision being handed some ones way out of pity.
But when the line in ability becomes one of parity in skill, we shouldn’t be trying to ensure an athlete who can compete at Olympic levels isn’t allowed to – if such a ban stands, then we would likely end up with an Olympics for people “enhanced” beyond their natural abilities by modern technology or bionic upgrades, and an Olympics for un augmented people, who cannot compete on an equal level with the augmented humans. Create a precedent for barring someone once, and eventually it will be used to show why someone should not be able to participate in other activities – its rare that a ban or a prejudice start in a single giant leap, far more often it’s a slippery slope of things that make logical sense.