The Pistorius Problem

The Pistorius Problem - has sympathy and admiration for the Blade Runner over-run science and objectivity in deciding his eligibility to compete at the world championships and, what happens next if he clambers onto the podium!

I have a really, really hard time believing he has a 10 second advantage. I’m a 25 second 200, 55+ second 400 man. That’s like equating Oscar to some masters hack like me or a high school athlete, and that is pretty clearly far from true to anyone who has ever laced up a pair of spikes.

If he in fact has such a huge advantage, there should at least be ONE double amputee fat kid in high school running 49.xx somewhere in the universe. Until they produce at least one tub of lard double amputee boy-wonder, I’m going to consider these 10 second accusations as total bunk.

If there is some advantage, I don’t care what some scientist says, it isn’t 10 seconds- that is just insulting to an obviously dedicated athlete. I don’t know why people think it’s OK to go after a guy with a clear physical disadvantage at birth who turned it into a positive, but nobody goes after those with a genetic advantage (high white fibre proportion, etc).

If anything, the fact he’s had prosthetics since birth may be a big proprioceptive advantage, but I don’t think anyone has enough data or real world comparative experience to be able to quantify it at this point.

T-slow, passionately argued but again, with emotion not science, although granted you speak nfrom the benefit of experience as a track sprinter. But dedication cannot put in what science left out - um, :slight_smile: what nature left out. I’m a good example of that in the sense that I trained three times a day through the last two years of high school, with a coach, and while I won sprints and longjump comps, I was awful at 400m. My PB is 53.1 and I have no physical disabilities. The top female I coached clocked 50.2 and the male 44.3. I’m not sure what it says, other than I had no talent at running 400m even though I loved the event. Oscar’s 400m projected times are based around studies of his actual sprinting, for which video and split times etc I think were provided by Oscar’s own team to various biomechanics experts. And it seems that all the scientists now agree Oscar does have an advantage once he’s up and running in the 400m.

PJ has done quite a bit of research and has collated research on Pistorius for a class he was teaching in biomechanics at a French university. He sent me an attachment but my computer doesn’t have the right program to open the notes. I know PJ is either already in Daegu or in the process of getting there so he may be too busy to shed light on his own thoughts in this forum at this time.

However, on a happy note, PJ said he hopes that even though on assignment in Daegu for a very influential Paris newspaper he will be able to find the time to send the occasional Post Card to the Forum from the upcoming World Championships!

I would love to hear Pierrejean’s input on the subject. I understand what you mean, a lot of people are on his side emotionally and I acknowledge I am too, but to put a hard number of 10 seconds on it seems ludicrous. It places him in the category of a casual athlete, which he is not. By the way, I would take your 53.1 PB thank you very much! Maybe I should say “I can run 55 with no apparent physical disability.” :slight_smile:

isnt he at a big disadvantage before he is up and running as it takes him so long to accelerate and get up and running. I think this point is being missed.

bottom of article

[i]"We rounded down by nearly two seconds to be conservative in our estimate and in part to incorporate factors not present during our experiments that are present during competitive track races one being that our predictive algorithm was developed using running or flying-start sprint trials.

“Obviously, competitive track races start from a still position and we recognised that Oscar Pistorius is relatively disadvantaged by his artificial limbs when beginning a race from a stationary start.”[/i]

Oops I better read the whole article before I reply again. Thanks John.

From observation, he certainly looks like he’s got an advantage and his physique doesn’t seem like that of a 45 second runner.

You guys think he looks he has an advantage by visual? To me it looks like he has no damn legs and not at an advantage. Dude has paperclips for legs. Its not Hollywood, no robocop. Now “science” say he does have an advantage but I don’t know.

Quite hard to argue with a lot of this I believe…

I think it is irrelevant if Pistorius has an advantage or not.

Sport aspires to be ‘fair’ and ‘equal’. It CAN NEVER be fair or equal when one man, Oscar Pistorius, is allowed to compete using artificial aid which NO-ONE ELSE CAN USE.

Fact is, without the blades, Pistorius could not run. Thus, his running is predicated upon the use of technological aids.

But no-one else of the able-bodied athletes can use this technology. Hence, a new rule is being implemented which exclusively favours Oscar Pistorius.

What happens when the blade technology improves? I mean, human legs aren’t being manufactured in labs. But Oscar’s legs are. Do able bodied athletes just have to accept it?

The paralympics were created to accommodate disabled athletes. An able-bodied athlete cannot compete in them but we now have an example of where a man, with artificial legs is allowed to run in the able-bodied event.

It’s total political correctness.

All the talk of advantage vs disadvantage is irrelevant. Pistorius gets to use technology that no-one can. But for the record, many scientists do believe his legs offer an advantage – just watch the last 100m of Oscar’s 400m races to seem him speeding up. Due to not having calf muscles, Oscar does not accumulate fatigue in the same was as able-bodied athletes.

Sport is not fair and equal though. From socioeconomic to biomechanical / genetic factors, some gifted athletes are great not because they work the hardest. I get what you’re saying, but this whole concept of athletics aspiring to be fair is I think oversimplifying a complex issue.

My underlying unease with the exclusion of Pistorius goes back to the the disturbing Olympic tradition in which only predominantly upper class individuals could afford to remain “amateur.” That excluded a huge group of people, and did so until very recently.

On the biomechanics side, Naim Suleymanoglou was a little person, but his “disability” translated into a positive in Olympic lifting. Should he have been excluded because his biomechanics fell outside the norm? I think that’s the other slippery slope we must take into account.

If political correctness means attempting to empower those who were previously disempowered, then then it seems like something worth considering carefully.

Sport is made up of individuals who have different genetic ability and come from different environments. That’s not equal and yes, sport is unfair. Nothing is equal in life.

But the differences that exists within the spectrum of ‘able-bodied’ cannot be altered thus fairness is predicated upon having rules which facilitate competition fairly. That means all athletes run on the track, have generally two arms and two legs and are not disabled etc or rely on ‘non human means’ to make them run.

Your second point about “empowering” people is moot in my view. The Paralymics cater to disabled people. That’s what they were invented for.It’s a case of whether the rules can be applied equally to everyone. In this case they cannot as Oscar requires fake legs to run whereas no other athlete can use artificial aids which are exclusive to them.

Whatever way this issue is sliced and diced, Oscar Pistorius gets to use technology which no-one else can.That’s unfair as per application of the rules. Imagine if a a hurlder got to use shoes with springs in them because they were small and no-one else got to do that – would that be fair?

What if Asafa Powell says “wait man, I want to use those blades too because Oscar is using them…” – will he be able to? No he won’t.

The IAAF is now facilitating rules which EXCLUDE most athletes in order to facilitate Oscar Pistorius’s inclusion in able-bodied sports.

If a disabled athlete had blindness like Marla Runyan, but were good enough to compete in able-bodied races then that is fine because that athlete doesn’t get to race with technology that ONLY THEY CAN POSSESS.

Best of luck to Oscar but he has fake legs and thus has an aid (whether they are better than real legs or not) which no other athlete can use thus he gets a rule made especially for him.Not fair imo.

I have had a triple bipass and cannot race motorcars or compete in athletics because of the medication I am on. I respect the rules most of the time.

Such is life.

Sorry to hear that mate.

Tanni Gray Thompson (UK’s greatest paralympian) has also slammed the Pistorius decision as she feels it actually undermines disability sports.

Best of luck to Pistorius – he is absolutely brilliant.But his legs are artificial whereas no other athlete can use such ‘artifical’ aids to run thus he is competing under a means/rule which is not fair to all or equal.It’s nothing to do with disability sports per se but actually just the actual facts – one man gets to use technology which cannot be used by all the other runners.To me, that is not fair.

Pistorius looks (ignoring the run - just look how much weight he’s lost) looks to be in superb shape.

I’m seriously concerned about how he might do and the precedent. He looked to have more in the tank.

Totally agree.

His last 100m relative to most of the athletes is so strong.

It is interesting to note though that the runners that placed ahead of him in his opening heat, and the runner who finished just behind him in the adjacent lane, all had stronger final 100m segments than Oscar.

In the last couple of years, Renny Quow (when running well) showed a race pattern was more Pistorius than Pistorius; and he has calves.

I think this questioning of Oscar Pistorius leaves a lot to be desired and loses sight of what an extraordinary young man Osacar is. Firstly I question the scientific evidence because it is all fundamentally flawed for one simple reason. The scientists have not tested an athlete before & after a double amputation. The only geniune test would be for a current well-trained 400m athlete (preferably multiple athletes for a larger sample size) to run a series of sprints from 60m to 400m THEN undergo a double amputation, train using the blades and return for a second series of tests.

NOW until a guinea pig is willing to lose their legs and prove to the world that Pistorius has an advantage, then we should all admire and find inspiration from what Oscar has achieved.

This will not set off a flood of double amputees on to the Diamond League or towards the London Olympics. Pistorius is basically one of a kind.The paranoia surrounding him is ill founded.

The following article appeared online today and it perfectly resonates my views on the hysteria surrounding the man.

Hope is a running dream

By Carl Thomen
Friday, 2 September 2011

Oscar Pistorius’ participation at the Athletics World Championships in Daegu this week raises a defiant finger at those who wanted him banned from competing against able-bodied athletes. At the same time it affirms all that is good in the human animal.

In 2008, even though he was close to a second outside the Olympic qualifying time for the 400m – a metaphorical country mile – he was treated as a harbinger for the coming cyborg apocalypse. Elio Locatelli, Director of Development at the IAAF, said that Pistorius’ running blades “affect[ed] the purity of the sport. [What we will see] next will be another device where people can fly with something on their back.”

Initially the IAAF suggested it would be dangerous for Pistorius to run in a relay because his blades might harm other athletes. Without conclusive proof for the claim that his blades gave him an unfair advantage, the powers-that-be banned him from competing against able-bodied athletes anyway. Pistorius challenged the IAAF’s ruling in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the decision was reversed after the Court could not find enough evidence to support the claims of the IAAF.

Throughout all of this it was largely forgotten that both his legs were amputated as a baby because of a congenital condition that meant he was born without fibulas. The world’s media did not champion the will to compete in ‘normal’ rugby and waterpolo as a schoolboy, or the sense of humour which allowed him to laugh as he woke up in his school’s boarding house to find that his friends had hidden his legs.

The focus was on his performance, bringing to the fore a tension between Pistorius’ achievements in objective, scientific terms, and those same successes seen in a personal, metaphysical or spiritual light.

Unsurprisingly, the sports profiteers were quick to spot an opportunity to exploit the courage of the ‘fastest man on no legs.’ A Nike advertisement featured the following text next to a picture of the Bladerunner:

[i]I was born without bones below the knee.

I only stand 5ft 2.

But this is the body I have been given.

This is my weapon.

How I conquer. How I wage my war.

This is how I have broken the world record 49 times.

How I become the fastest thing on no legs.

This is my weapon.

This is how I fight.[/i]

The use of words such as ‘weapon’, ‘conquer’ and ‘war’ shift the emphasis from the deeply personal – from the self-affirming message of valour in the face of severe limitation – to the discourse of exploitable performance. ‘Even without legs, you can beat, conquer, win; even without legs you can break world records… with Nike’s help. So buy Nike stuff.’

This is the travesty of our time: when people look at the Bladerunner what they see is conditioned by the interests of an image-conscious hegemony and a multinational behemoth. In spite of bigoted bureaucratic sanction and corporate exploitation, Oscar Pistorius stands firm as a monument to self-affirmation, self-belief and a refusal to accept limits – in short, to freedom.

Pistorius says of the Paralympics that they “taught [him] so much more about doing your best, while able-bodied sport is just about winning at any cost. [He] can win now and be disappointed, or [he] can come fifth and be happy.”

No doubt this is because Paralympic athletes have a much greater appreciation of what it takes simply to be in the starting blocks. They have not forgotten that true inspiration comes not from the fastest runner, but from the spirit of the man that would run without legs.