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Medicine Robotics

Amputee Sprinter Wins Olympic Appeal to Compete 366

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the cyborg-olympics dept.
Dr. Eggman writes "Oscar Pistorius, a 21-year-old South African double-amputee sprinter, has won his appeal filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This overturns a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations, and allows Mr. Pistorius the chance to compete against other able-bodied athletes for a chance at a place on the South African team for the Beijing Olympics. He currently holds the 400-meter Paralympic world sprinting record, but must improve on his time by 1.01 seconds to meet the Olympic qualification standard. However, even if Pistorius fails to get the qualifying time, South African selectors could add Oscar to the Olympic 1,600-meter relay squad."
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Amputee Sprinter Wins Olympic Appeal to Compete

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  • How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HetMes (1074585) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:32PM (#23441386)
    ...to all athletes that have to drag their lower legs at each step, and not having the benefit of springlike limbs.
    • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:41PM (#23441468)
      Call me sentimental, but I tend to think that the inspirational value -- to everyone, not just aspiring legless athletes -- of letting this fellow compete trumps any concerns over fairness.

      In any case, it matters not at all to me and I'm content to let the Olympic bureaucrats make whatever decision they see fit.
      • by filthpickle (1199927) on Friday May 16, 2008 @07:22PM (#23441858)
        the issue isn't this guy.....the issue is the precedent it sets. /. should be completely onboard with the olympic committe. In 50 years we WILL have cyborg legs....should that be allowed in the olympics?

        I want a separate olympics.......an entertain me monkey olympics.
        • by couchslug (175151) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:27PM (#23442320)
          "In 50 years we WILL have cyborg legs....should that be allowed in the olympics?"

          Standardize all the legs and inspect them the way NASCAR does cars. Restrict those with cyborg legs to racing in their own class.
          • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:15PM (#23443206) Journal
            Restrict those with cyborg legs to racing in their own class.

            Sure... that's where this guy used to be competing (in the Paralympic Games [wikipedia.org]). The issue is whether he should be competing in the Olympic Games "class".
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Reziac (43301) *
            When I was in the 9th grade, a wheelchair basketball team gave a demo at our school, then played a regular game against our team -- who were damned good for junior-high kids, in fact they'd *beaten* a pretty good *high school* junior-varsity team.

            Despite which, the wheelchair team thoroughly trounced our able-bodied team.

        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:40PM (#23442392)
          What if I have a pair of shoes that can simulate the extra springiness that were similar to these artificial "legs"? I'm sure many sports groups would disqualify me for having non-standard or unfair equipment.

          Granted, this guy isn't so good with these artificial legs that he's going to get a medal, or even qualify. But the idea that the rules that apply to an abled bodied person can be changed in a competitive sport to accommodate someone with disabilities just seems wrong.

          What next, someone running a marathon with an oxygen bottle because of a medical condition? Maybe Tee Ball at the Olympics?

          Inspirational is when someone overcomes their limitations at the Paralympics; not when someone asks the IAAF to change the rules.
          • by penguin king (673171) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:16PM (#23442644)
            I think he has overcome his limitations at the Paralympics given he's the current champion (summary), so now he wants a crack at this. I say let him have it, if he's not already running circles around everyone I fail to see the advantage, if they allow it, they can always moderate/restrict classes later, there wouldn't be much point whilst there is only one of him to have a seperate race would there? I don't see why we shouldn't have mens races, womens races and `able amputees` races.
            • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday May 16, 2008 @10:07PM (#23442890)
              if he's not already running circles around everyone I fail to see the advantage,

              He's not running circles around everyone else, because the rest of his body isn't up to it.
              What if we put cybernetic legs on the current second or third place dude? Might he then be the world record holder, solely because of the artificial legs?
        • by psychodelicacy (1170611) * <bstcbn@gmail.com> on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:49PM (#23442454)
          Absolutely. It might be inspirational to see a dyslexic child competing in a spelling bee with the aid of a spellchecker, but it's hardly the point of the competition. The point of the Olympics is to look at the extremes which the human body can achieve. Whether prosthetics are an advantage or a disadvantage is almost beside the point, which is that they go beyond the remit and the purpose of the competition.
          • by hibji (966961) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:03PM (#23443136)
            I would like to argue that olympics are not only about the human body. It is also very much about technology. Think of the skis and the fancy swim suits used in the swim competitions. Of more relevance are the spiked running shoes used by the runners. They offer a huge advantage. Sports are very much intertwined with technology. It is simply that for this athlete the line in drawn at a different point.
            • by Reziac (43301) * on Saturday May 17, 2008 @12:28AM (#23443554) Homepage Journal
              I think the line needs to be drawn at the point where something *replaces* part of the human body, rather than being *added* to it (as with skis, etc.) Also, in the case of those high-tech *additions*, everyone has exactly the same opportunity to use them. Of course, this could change -- frex, let *every* runner use spring-loaded gear! surely the same principle could be fitted to an intact leg and foot.

              Otherwise, as someone above mentioned, you lose the whole point of the Olympics: to demonstrate what the =human= body can achieve.

            • by sjbe (173966) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @01:04AM (#23443696)

              Think of the skis and the fancy swim suits used in the swim competitions.Of more relevance are the spiked running shoes used by the runners. They offer a huge advantage.
              All of which are available to every competitor. This guy's prosthetic legs are performance enhancing technology that is not available or usable by any other competitor. Technology that provides an unfair or unsafe advantage can be accounted for in the rules but those rules have to be applied uniformly. Performance enhancing drugs have been ruled illegal primarily for safety reasons but also because it becomes a technological arms race defeating the whole point of fair competition. I cannot find a logical distinction between performance enhancing drugs and performance enhancing prosthetics.

              Sports are very much intertwined with technology. It is simply that for this athlete the line in drawn at a different point.
              Which is exactly the problem. The line CANNOT be drawn in a different place for different competitors. The rules have to be applied uniformly and fairly.
            • by Archtech (159117) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @07:28AM (#23444902)
              Whatever may be true of swimming or cycling, in the case of running technology has made relatively small differences. Spiked shoes actually give very little advantage, as witness the fact that a few world-class runners have always run barefoot. Spikes give a slight edge, of course, which is why they are so popular.

              In the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Bob Hayes won the 100 metres in 10.06 on a soaking wet cinder track with actual holes in it, running in very heavy primitive spiked shoes. To this day, the Olympic record is 9.84 by Donovan Bailey in 1996, running on a vastly superior modern synthetic track. The difference between these two times is about six feet - not a huge improvement, even allowing for the distinct possibility that Hayes was a faster sprinter than Bailey.

              At the other extreme, Abebe Bikila won the Olympic marathon in both 1960 and 1964. The first time he ran barefoot; the second time he wore shoes. Admittedly he ran three minutes faster in 1964, but that may reflect his own improvement, stronger competition, and a faster (flatter) course. Today the top marathon runners cover the 26.2 miles 8 minutes faster than Bikila in 1964, but I don't think you could find any expert to agree that technology has anything to do with that.
          • by aepervius (535155) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:06PM (#23443152)
            That point was long lost when the artificial chemical enhancement took over to push the limit of what the human body can achieve.
      • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WK2 (1072560) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:05PM (#23442184) Homepage

        Call me sentimental, but I tend to think that the inspirational value -- to everyone, not just aspiring legless athletes -- of letting this fellow compete trumps any concerns over fairness.

        Yeah, that's usually how short-term benefits over long-term consequences work. They are sentimental, feel good, and you don't really see how bad it is for a long time. The worst part is that there aren't much feel good short-term benefits. This is guy is good, but according to what I've read, including TFS, isn't quite good enough for the Olympics. So in just a years time, the only thing we will be left with is the precedent that allows cyborgs in the Olympics.

        • by sjbe (173966) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:51PM (#23442468)

          So in just a years time, the only thing we will be left with is the precedent that allows cyborgs in the Olympics.
          Actually the more immediate and interesting question is how do they justify this in the face of their ban on performance enhancing drugs? Cold and heartless maybe but I cannot see a logical difference between performance enhancing legs (and they ARE unquestionably performance enhancing) and performance enhancing drugs. Forget cyborgs 50 years from now, there is a double standard now because of this ruling.

          Look, I wasn't born with legs that can run at Olympic sprinter speeds either. Why should this guy get a free pass when I don't just because he was born with a birth defect? Envy? Maybe (probably) but I was a pretty good athlete many moons ago (yes a few of us are here on Slashdot... save your insults) and I would have liked a shot at the Olympics too. While he's not cheating (I greatly admire what he's accomplished) I think there is a double standard here. Most of us are not born with the ability to be Olympic athletes. That's supposedly the entire point. Perhaps not anymore?
          • by HybridJeff (717521) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:56PM (#23442504) Homepage
            Well, if you really wanted too you could et your legs chopped off and attach a pair of cheetas instead.
            • by Archtech (159117) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @07:38AM (#23444936)

              Well, if you really wanted too you could et your legs chopped off and attach a pair of cheetas instead.
              I've seen a lot people making that suggestion in the various discussions of this issue. It's very disingenuous, because even for the most fanatical competitor there is a lot more to life than sport. Nobody would make such an extreme sacrifice (voluntarily, at least) just to win a gold medal or set a world record. The obvious pain, suffering, and disadvantages of being legless far outweigh any possible sporting advantage.

              But this suggestion goes right to the heart of the controversy. The implication, it seems to me, is that Pistorius has suffered terribly (right), and is at a great disadvantage (right); moreover, he has struggled nobly (right). Therefore, some people argue, he deserves to get whatever he wants; and if that is to run in the Olympics, so be it.

              I suspect that people who argue this way don't take the Olympics very seriously. After all, it's just a lot of people playing silly games, isn't it? Besides, many of us nowadays disapprove morally of competition, because most of the competitors must lose. It's often urged how unfair this is, which is why school events are often arranged so that everyone gets prizes. After all, aren't we all very special?

              This is a very clear instance of the legal dictum that "hard cases make bad law". Pistorius is extremely admirable, and what's more we would very much like to do something to help him. Letting him into the Olympics is quick, and easy, and makes us glow with moral righteousness. The only downside is that it pretty much destroys the integrity of the Olympic Games.
              • by SnowZero (92219) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @05:03PM (#23448132)

                I've seen a lot people making that suggestion in the various discussions of this issue. It's very disingenuous, because even for the most fanatical competitor there is a lot more to life than sport. Nobody would make such an extreme sacrifice (voluntarily, at least) just to win a gold medal or set a world record.
                Olympians are not normal people. They are people who really will sacrifice their entire childhood and early adulthood to a single-minded pursuit of a sport, everything else be damned (at least for the most competitive sports). Read books about their lives, or watch some documentaries; The same sort of story repeats, and its both astoundingly brave and tragic at the same time.

                In light of that, there are a reasonable fraction of athletes who would willingly sacrifice their future too. Most performance enhancing drugs have very serious negative consequences down the road, and yet you see athletes at almost every level now who willingly make that trade whenever they think they can get away with it. There was an anonymous study once of Olympic hopefuls which asked if they would take a drug if they knew it would guarantee a gold medal, was undetectable, but would kill them in ten years. I can no longer find the reference, but almost unbelievably, a nontrivial fraction of the athletes said they would take the drug.

                I suspect that people who argue this way don't take the Olympics very seriously. After all, it's just a lot of people playing silly games, isn't it? Besides, many of us nowadays disapprove morally of competition, because most of the competitors must lose. It's often urged how unfair this is, which is why school events are often arranged so that everyone gets prizes. After all, aren't we all very special?
                No, I just think its fine to adjust things until they are deemed fair. A athlete cancer patient can get all the help they need to get them back to normal, and that's fair as far as I'm concerned. Athletes routinely get exceptions for drugs to treat serious medical conditions, even using drugs that would otherwise be banned. A lot of thought goes into the allowances for exceptions, and they are difficult to get. However its a defined process, and I think the same thing should apply here (and from the looks of it, that's happening).

                The only downside is that it pretty much destroys the integrity of the Olympic Games.
                In any competition, loss of integrity is the norm, and the controlling body must constantly struggle to keep it. It's not something to be lost, it is something already lost that we must try to gain and keep with constant maintenance. Looking at exceptional cases on top of the already large burden isn't really that much additional work.
          • by Reziac (43301) * on Saturday May 17, 2008 @12:15AM (#23443504) Homepage Journal
            And how long is it before some otherwise-healthy person has their legs amputated so they too can be a spring-loaded sprinter, because they feel that will give them that final edge they need to make the Olympics?

            Don't think it won't happen. Obsessed athletes are among the absolute worst for ignoring long-term consequences in favour of short-term goals.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by quantaman (517394)

        Call me sentimental, but I tend to think that the inspirational value -- to everyone, not just aspiring legless athletes -- of letting this fellow compete trumps any concerns over fairness.

        In any case, it matters not at all to me and I'm content to let the Olympic bureaucrats make whatever decision they see fit.

        Inspirational that one guy in the present day can overcome his disability and (almost) compete at the highest level of the world.

        Not so inspiration in 10 years when some incredibly fit and dedicated runners are staring down the track at some much less fit amputees bounding down the track like rabbits.

    • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vertigoCiel (1070374) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:42PM (#23441492)
      If they think he has an unfair advantage, why don't they get their legs amputated, too?
      • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hankapobe (1290722) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:48PM (#23441562)

        If they think he has an unfair advantage, why don't they get their legs amputated, too?

        If this guy takes home a gold and considering how competitive some folks are, it wouldn't surprise me if elite athletes start getting into "accidents" and having these put on them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by erroneus (253617)
          You are most correct. There are people who would give up their legs to become faster runners. This is setting up a very bad precedent.

          If doping is bad, this is bad too. If he could somehow run without his devices or could substitute a non-springy prosthesis, then it would be okay again. But as it stands, there will be those who are obsessive enough to follow in his prosthetic footsteps.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by yesteraeon (872571)
            Two points:
            1)I don't think we can give too much credence to what we think stupid/crazy people will do in response to a certain policy. Personally, I'd be fine if amputees have a shot at competing in the Olympics and the cost is a few whack jobs cutting off their legs. I'd rather not see anyone lose their legs. But better that than deny these tremendous athletes the chance to compete in the world's most prestigious sporting event (despite having the technology to allow them to do it!).
            2)If losing your le
          • by krazytekn0 (1069802) on Friday May 16, 2008 @10:58PM (#23443108) Homepage Journal
            Think about it this way... You cut off your leg that means you have less body mass to support, meaning you don't have to eat as much or have as big of an impact on the planet. Cutting off your legs is not only a good way to get ahead in athletics but it's GREEN too!!!
        • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by element-o.p. (939033) on Friday May 16, 2008 @07:08PM (#23441750) Homepage

          If this guy takes home a gold...it wouldn't surprise me if elite athletes start getting into "accidents" and having these put on them.

          I don't think it is likely to become an issue. From the summary: "He ... must improve on his time by 1.01 seconds to meet the Olympic qualification standard."

          So if I understand correctly, he has to go 1.01 seconds faster than the best he has already done to meet the minimum standard that other Olympic sprinters need to meet in order to race at the Olympics.

          Not to knock him -- it's very cool to overcome a disability and compete at the Olympics -- but it doesn't sound like he will be a top contender in the races; it sounds more like he just wants to participate in the Olympic races. In any case, I wish him the best!
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            The problem is the precedent it sets. Perhaps this guy isn't a near olypmic quality sprinter, but his artificial leg gives him a boost to the point where he's even close. If so... on what grounds do you refuse the guy who was already going to break the record and then gets one of these and uses it to go even *faster?*

            Perhaps this prosthetic doesn't give the guy an advantage... but mechanically it's pretty clear there *are* such prosthetics, and I rather suspect this is one.

            I mean... imagine someone has a
            • Re:How unfair... (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Culture20 (968837) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:04PM (#23442572)

              It's pretty clear that a normal athlete with a spring attached to their foot wouldn't be allowed... We have the special olypmics for a reason. I'm sure this guy can win there, and wish him luck in that... but not in the normal olympics.
              I can't wait until the special olympics are outperforming regular olympics, kind of like a super-hero olympics made up of bionic people.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If any athlete decides to chop their legs off to be able to use faster prosthetic legs I would invite them to do a bit of reading on phantom limb beforehand. From my understanding it's one of the more unpleasant things a human being can go through.
      • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Informative)

        by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday May 16, 2008 @07:01PM (#23441680) Journal
        If they think he has an unfair advantage, why don't they get their legs amputated, too?

        It's not too much of a stretch. Apparently in baseball there's something called Tommy John surgery [everything2.com], where a ligament in the elbow is replaced by a (stronger) ligament from the wrist. It was originally intended to deal with injuries, although after pitchers found that their performance was better than it was before the injury some healthy players have become interested in getting the surgery performed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vux984 (928602)
        If they think he has an unfair advantage, why don't they get their legs amputated, too?

        What if they do? What if it that becomes what it takes to win? The olympics is already a freakshow... but it could descend much much further... we could attach flipper feet to swimmers, and implant gills designed to breath in chlorinated pools...

        At what point do we draw the line?

        And if we don't draw a line and let the olympics devolve into a league for pharma-cyborg-supermen, can we start up a new 'new olympics' for natur
      • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by psychodelicacy (1170611) * <bstcbn@gmail.com> on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:58PM (#23442528)

        This is the kind of argument which makes the question difficult to debate. I sincerely doubt anyone is saying that this guy's having his legs amputated was a good thing, or a deliberate cheat, or anything of the sort. What they are saying is that, as an unintended consequence of his physical impairment, he has found himself in the situation of having mechanical aids which put him outside the scope of the Olympics' competition specifications and potentially give him an advantage which he could not have gained from his natural physique and training alone.

        By translating that into "they say that having your legs amputated is an advantage, the insensitive clods", you skew the argument in the direction of disability rights, which is really not what it's about at all.

    • Re:How unfair... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoobixCube (1133473) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:52PM (#23441600) Journal
      How is that unfair? He holds the Paralympic world record for the 400m, and he STILL has to improve on that by 1.01 seconds to meet qualification standard. I'm by no means an athlete, but I know that professional sprinters and swimmers find it so hard to improve on their own personal bests. Each second is a hardly won battle in it's self. I think he has a hard challenge ahead of him to be selected, and will still probably on place in an average middle position at the Olympics.
      • by neoform (551705)
        Just because he might not set a new record, doesn't mean there wont be others like him who are faster and given an advantage by their prosthetic legs. The Olympics are supposed to be about athletes competing on a fair playing field. He should be competing in an entirely different category against others with comparable abilities.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:32PM (#23441388)
    Since they can't compete with Black Mesa, now they're in the sporting equipment business?

    Look out Nike.
  • by neomunk (913773) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:33PM (#23441400)
    Sweet. Now I'm gonna go get my left arm hacked off and get a harpoon launcher installed for the javelin throw.

    Or, to put it in a way slashdot understands...

    1: Get amputation(s).
    2: Get prosthetics with a mechanical advantage over mere flesh.
    3: ???
    4: Profit!
    • Sweet. Now I'm gonna go get my left arm hacked off and get a harpoon launcher installed for the javelin throw. Or, to put it in a way slashdot understands... 1: Get amputation(s). 2: Get prosthetics with a mechanical advantage over mere flesh. 3: ??? 4: Profit!

      I'm getting a chainsaw on mine!

    • Technically, a harpoon launcher allows you to use an external power source (compressed air, explosive, etc.) while his legs don't directly add power to the equation.

      What they do however is take an inherrently inefficient task (the loss of kinetic energy from a running stride) and make it more efficient (storing that energy in a spring and then re-releasing it to power forward).

      What he's doing is closer to a high jumper entering on a state of the art pogo stick.

      Of course, I think it's a brilliant idea. I'm t
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by willyhill (965620)
      Laser-wielding sharks cannot be far behind now.
  • Some Day (Score:5, Funny)

    by KidKadaver (1099449) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:39PM (#23441444)
    Someday, we'll look back at this event, with the power of hindsight and wonder how we failed to see the Cyborg War coming.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When you say "the power of hindsight", you mean having cybernetic eyes implanted in the backs of our heads, right?
  • by wanax (46819) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:44PM (#23441516)
    can be found here. [tas-cas.org]

    I personally think this is the right decision. While obviously there is a line where replacement turns into enhancement, unless it's clearly crossed I'm in favor of letting everybody who has the ability compete. The IAAF did not show that there was enhancement (and even so, his best 400m time of 46.56s is over a second off the Olympic qualifying time of 45.55s).

    My favorite part, where the panel finds that the IAAF biased the testing against him, and then told the press they were DQ'ing him before voting on it is here:

    60. At this stage, in the Panel's view, the process began to go "off the rails". The correspondence between the IAAF nad Prof. Bruggemann shos that his instructions were to carry out the testing only when Mr Pistorius was running in a straight line after the acceleration phase. By the time that the IAAF commissioned the Cologne tests it was known that this was the part of the race in which Mr Pistorius usually ran at his fastest.

    61. [...] IAAF's officials must have known that, by excluding the start and the acceleration phase, the results would create a distorted view of Mr Pistorius' advantages and/or disadvantages. [...]

    62. The stori is not enhances by the fact that Dr. Robert Gailey, the scientist nominated by Mr Pistorius [...] was effectively "frozen out" to such an extent that he declined to attend the Cologne tests. He was informed that he would be allowed to attend only as an observer, with no input on the testing protocol or on the analysis.

    68. The impression of prejudgement is also enhanced by the fact that Dr. Locatelli and other IAAF officials told the press before the vote was taken that Mr Pistorius would be banned from IAAF sanctioned events.

    70. In the Panel's view, the manned in which the IAAF hendled the situation of MR Pistorius in the period from July 2007 to January 2008 fell short of the high standards that the international sporting community is entitield to expect from a federation such as the IAAF.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      The IAAF did not show that there was enhancement (and even so, his best 400m time of 46.56s is over a second off the Olympic qualifying time of 45.55s).
      Wow, so by that logic I could enter on a moped and, so long as I don't hammer the throttle during qualifying, that would be ok.

      • by wanax (46819)
        I think this article [go.com] sums up my opinion fairly well. But using a moped is clearly enhancement. The IAAF didn't show that these particular legs allow superior overall biomechanics to a natural leg. But my main point is that this needs to be regulated, rather than banned. This is because there are already many border-line cases. Is this really very different from a runner with a titanium rod in their leg? Or with Speedo's new swimsuit that's causing controversy? What about Tiger Woods' LASIK surgery? Or Flo
  • clearly these artificial limbs store kinetic energy in a radically different way. the biomechanics are obviously different. he's using different muscle groups. watch a video of him, and he clearly starts off slower than everyone else, and then speeds up a lot faster than everyone else: he's running on springs

    god bless the guy, he's a phenomenal athlete. but he shouldn't be allowed to compete with runners with real feet. he's playing checkers when everyone else is playing blackjack. what he is doing is just not the same sport as what the other guys on the track are doing. and so he shouldn't compete with them. not because he doesn't deserve to just because he doesn't have feet, but simply because he's playing a different biomechanical game
    • It seems to me the spirit of the Olympic games is to invite friendly competition between nations, not to foster a giant "my country is better than yours" competition. To me, that means that it need not be so strictly regulated. I think the practice of including any able-bodied athelete, as defined as being as capable as any other athelete of their field, is more true to real spirit of inclusion than that if banning any athelete who might have an advantage over, or disadvantage against, any other opponent. I
  • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:47PM (#23441540) Homepage
    For some long distance events they've banned amputees because they have an advantage over normal runners. How long before sprinters gain an advantage as well?

    Will athletes start hacking their own legs off to get ahead?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Will athletes start hacking their own legs off to get ahead?

      Or---stranger still---will they start hacking their own heads off to get a leg?
  • His personal best is still more than a second behind the qualifying time for the Olympics.
  • That's fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Friday May 16, 2008 @07:21PM (#23441846)
    ...if they're letting regular athletes compete in the disabled categories as well. After all, what's good for the goose...
  • This seems like a very bad precedent.

    Now, or in the near future, scientists and engineers may well be able to build an artificial limb with better performance characteristics than a natural limb. This is especially true in the case of a specialized application -- for example, sprinting in a straight line on a level surface for 100 meters as opposed to a somewhat more general application like basketball with more varied forces and requirements.

    To determine if each such limb gives an "unfair" advantage t
  • by Hans Lehmann (571625) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:02PM (#23442168)
    Interesting article on Hugh Herr, a scientist and also a double amputee, and how his opinions may have changed once he was an expert paid witness. http://scienceofsport.blogspot.com/2008/05/how-much-does-it-cost-to-buy-scientific.html [blogspot.com]
  • A wrestling parallel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zarathud (255150) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:12PM (#23442624) Homepage
    A friend of mine wrestled in high school and likes to tell the story about the toughest match he ever had. His opponent was an amputee: one arm missing. This gave him several advantages.
        - his weight class was effectively lowered
        - many moves would became ineffective against him (you can't grab an arm if it isn't there).
        - years of living with one arm had made that arm very, very strong. This combined with the weight class issue meant that his arm was generally absurdly stronger that his opponent's.
        - surprise. Most folks had no experience wrestling a one-armed opponent and were not prepared. It changed the game.

    Of course, there were also disadvantages. Many moves require two arms, and his armless side was a zone he could not reach into. My friend was able to capitalize on this, attacking from the armless side. In the end, my friend won, but not easily.

    All this without prosthetics even.

    Do I think this guy and an unfair advantage? Well no. But it is not an easy situation to analyze.
  • Precedents. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RonTheHurler (933160) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:21PM (#23442688)
    There was a guy, back in the 1930s or so (i think) who was an amputee. He had only one leg, and without any prosthetics, he qualified for the olympics, competing against two-legged people and scoring well enough that he could have been a contender for the gold. His sport- the high jump. I'm not making this up.

    Unfortunately, he was disqualified as well. His unfair advantage- less weight to get over the bar, and fewer muscles requiring oxygen.

    Times and public sentiment were different then. I'd bet that today he'd be allowed to compete. Ironic that we had a "crippled" president, but a one-legged man wasn't allowed to be an olympian. But imagine a presidential candidate in a wheelchair today...

  • LPGA women can compete with the PGA men, but not vice-a-versa? Who came up with this nonsense? Same for the female hockey goalie playing in the NHL, but I presume no men allowed to play in the women's league.

    Once you hear of something like this it is time to find your sports fix elsewhere. This is really more of a political correctness / "we are all equal but some of us are more equal than others" movement than a sports one.

    It all comes back to one group wanting a one-way advantage over another. This furthers the "minority" advantage everywhere, tilting the playing field even more toward pig rule. P.C. = irony challenged.

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.

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