About 10 days ago, news broke that a Court of Arbitration for Sports cleared Oscar Pistorius to compete in his bid to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. At first, the International Association of Athletics Federations ruled that he was not eligible to compete in such qualifying events.
But that was overturned by the CAS.
The 21-year-old South African has gone on record in many interviews stating that running is his ultimate passion and that it’s what he’s meant to do in life and it seems very clear that he believes every word he says.
His fight to qualify for the Olympics has been ongoing and because of potential controversy, Pistorius voluntarily agreed for the IAAF to conduct studies to decide whether or not he had an unfair advantage while running.
He’s already proven that he can run and win against some of the rest of the world, so what’s the big deal?
The issue and studies were not scrutinized like an investigation of steroid use as we’ve seen amongst other track athletes. He’s not consuming or injecting himself with anything that makes him run faster than anyone else. The issue at hand is that Pistorius doesn’t have legs.
He runs using specialized prosthetic legs nicknamed “Cheetah blades.”
Pistorius is a double amputee. He was born without fibulas in his legs, so his legs were amputated before he was even a toddler.
He’s broken records in the Paralympics and has won big races against able-bodied runners at the South African Championships.
As a former athlete whose favorite sport is track, it’s hard for me to say that he should not be running with the rest of the athletes.
I know what the love of running feels like and it would seem as though I’m betraying a fellow runner. But if it’s true that using these cheetah blades gives him an advantage over others, than he shouldn’t be allowed to compete.
The specific IAAF rule that alludes to Pistorius’ ineligibility is the one regarding the “use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.”
Researchers from IAAF’s study found that these cheetah blades do give him an advantage. They found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as other able-bodied runners in the study, but use less energy. This, in my mind, means that he could run fast and not exert as much energy or finish and not be as tired as the others.
His blades are lighter than real legs because they don’t possess bones and muscles. So that, to me sounds like at least one advantage and the rule states that a runner can’t have any advantages at all.
Researchers also found that the blades offer more spring than a human leg does and that running with them “leads to less vertical motion combined with less mechanical work for lifting the body.”
And that was only one study conducted by the IAAF.
(Results from the study, test procedures and parameters of it can be found on iaaf.org.)
Still, what Pistorius has accomplished is amazing. The fact that he hasn’t given up his fight to run shows incredible persistence and determination.
I want to root for him because I think he has such a great story and has made history.
But at the same time, if he has an unfair advantage because of the extra spring in his step, I don’t want him to run. Sure, the case can be made that he is at a disadvantage because he doesn’t have legs, but he has cheetah blades.
It seems like a cruel thing to say, but by giving him the opportunity to run, it then opens up the door for more people to contest their eligibility.
Even with the ruling in his favor, Pistorius still has to qualify for the Olympics in the individual events, so it can be said to wait and see what happens.
It just seems to me that the Paralympics was established for this reason. I want to be clear though, that I think he’s incredible.
It’s a tough situation to be in and I don’t envy him at all. Good for him if he can qualify and even if he doesn’t, then it really doesn’t make him less of an athlete.
I think more studies should be conducted on these cheetah blades before any more decisions are made.
• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or email@example.com