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An Amputee Sprinter: Is He Disabled or Too-Abled? (The "fastest man on no legs")

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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 10:32 AM
Original message
An Amputee Sprinter: Is He Disabled or Too-Abled? (The "fastest man on no legs")
Edited on Thu May-17-07 10:33 AM by BurtWorm
Interesting controversy brewing in the world of Olympic track and field:



http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/15/sports/othersports/15...

May 15, 2007

By JER LONGMAN



MANCHESTER, England, May 14 As Oscar Pistorius of South Africa crouched in the starting blocks for the 200 meters on Sunday, the small crowd turned its attention to the sprinter who calls himself the fastest man on no legs.

Pistorius wants to be the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympics. But despite his ascendance, he is facing resistance from track and fields world governing body, which is seeking to bar him on the grounds that the technology of his prosthetics may give him an unfair advantage over sprinters using their natural legs.

His first strides were choppy Sunday, a necessary accommodation to sprinting on a pair of j-shaped blades made of carbon fiber and known as Cheetahs. Pistorius was born without the fibula in his lower legs and with other defects in his feet. He had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. At 20, his coach says, he is like a five-speed engine with no second gear.

Yet Pistorius is also a searing talent who has begun erasing the lines between abled and disabled, raising philosophical questions: What should an athlete look like? Where should limits be placed on technology to balance fair play with the right to compete? Would the nature of sport be altered if athletes using artificial limbs could run faster or jump higher than the best athletes using their natural limbs?

Once at full speed Sunday, Pistorius handily won the 100 and 200 meters here at the Paralympic World Cup, an international competition for disabled athletes. A cold, rainy afternoon tempered his performances, but his victories came decisively and kept him aimed toward his goal of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, even though international track officials seek to block his entrance.

Since March, Pistorius has delivered startling record performances for disabled athletes at 100 meters (10.91 seconds), 200 meters (21.58 seconds) and 400 meters (46.34 seconds). Those times do not meet Olympic qualifying standards for men, but the Beijing Games are still 15 months away. Already, Pistorius is fast enough that his marks would have won gold medals in equivalent womens races at the 2004 Athens Olympics....
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 10:59 AM
Response to Original message
1. it's a tough call
but I have to say no. maybe we need to eventually have some sort of 'open' competitions, as technology is such that bionic enhancements make the idea of 'otherly abled' supercede 'disabled' in reality (which, for legs is beginning to happen.) Hands are a long way off, but the joints in legs are much simpler, within ten years there will be artificial legs that are stronger, lighter and as reactive as human legs (without, perhaps the fine motor skills required to do things with your feet like dribble a soccer ball, but that, too, will come) hands are probably 20-25 years off from being comparable to human ones, but this is coming as well. As long as the artificial part is integral to the event, it should disqualify you from current Olympic competition, just as potential enhancers like pharmaceuticals do.

yes, it's unfair to some, but the potential for abuse is so great down the line that a decision must be made now. Look at the US sprinter who was taking a prescription for a well known and easily diagnosed medical condition (narcolepsy) and was DQd. sorry, but the potential for abuse is too high, no matter how legitimate your use. If you can't compete without it, you can't compete. Should an asthmatic be allowed to take EPO to level the playing field? should with an inflamed disc in his back be allowed to take steroids? with a hormone deficiency take HGH or testosterone when others can't? someone with ADDHD taking ritalin? It's tough luck, no question. but then being born with athletic talent at this level is luck as well, let alone having the opportunity and support to make the most of that talent. (the hard work and dedication comes from within, that part isn't luck)
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lazyriver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:05 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. SNL had a similar thought back in the late 80's
Edited on Thu May-17-07 11:06 AM by lazyriver
Sorry, I'm technologically challenged and can't seem to copy this link so it works...

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/163480/all_drug_olympics /


Edited: Seems like a working link now...
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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:05 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Well argued!
:applause:

Jolly good show.
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hfojvt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:37 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. Yeah
but he's obviously using an artificial brain

You can't expect an ordinary human to compete against logic circuits. It's unfair, I tell ya. I demand a test! What was that test again from Blade Runner?


I am reminded of the scene in "Player Piano" were Paul tries to play checkers against a machine. A co-worker did something similar. Playing somebody in chess on line, he put the moves into his computer. So his computer beat the guy, unbeknownst to his opponent. I also had a friend who could not beat his computer. He didn't think it could be beaten, so he had me play it over the phone. It wasn't a very sophisticated computer though, so I cleaned its clock.
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Tesha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:21 PM
Response to Reply #7
22. Voight-Kampff test...
Edited on Thu May-17-07 01:25 PM by Tesha
> What was that test again from Blade Runner?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voight-Kampff_machine



Holden: You're in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down...
Leon: What one?
Holden: What?
Leon: What desert?
Holden: It doesn't make any difference what desert, it's completely hypothetical.
Leon: But, how come I'd be there?
Holden: Maybe you're fed up. Maybe you want to be by yourself. Who knows? You look down and see a tortoise, Leon. It's crawling toward you...
Leon: Tortoise? What's that?
Holden: You know what a turtle is?
Leon: Of course!
Holden: Same thing.
Leon: I've never seen a turtle. (pause) But I understand what you mean.
Holden: You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back, Leon.
Leon: Do you make up these questions, Mr. Holden? Or do they write 'em down for you?
Holden: The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping.
Leon: WHAT DO YOU MEAN, I'M NOT HELPING?
Holden: I mean you're not helping! Why is that, Leon?
(Leon has become visibly shaken)
Holden: They're just questions, Leon. In answer to your query they're written down for me. It's a test, designed to provoke an emotional response. (pause) Shall we continue?

Tesha
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hfojvt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:48 PM
Response to Reply #22
24. it's not fair using google or wiki to answer that!!
:P

Machine assistance! Machine assitance! I cry foul! Chalk dust flew up in the air! :argh:
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Tesha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 02:05 PM
Response to Reply #24
26. I didn't use Google. I simply knew the name of the test and...
I didn't use Google. I simply knew the name of the test
and supplied a Wiki pointer.

I *DID* use IMDB for the quote, though. ;)

Tesha
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AngryAmish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 12:20 PM
Response to Reply #1
14. Do you consider eyeglasses (or contacts or surgery) as artificial?
Baseball for one allows eyeglasses to make one see better. A person was not born that way. Yet they are using technology to get an edge.

This is kinda a silly point but they are the moral equivalent to this. Allowing technology in sport is done on an ad hoc basis with little rhyme or reason.
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 12:33 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. obviously artifical
I would consider glasses (or contacts) to be an add-on corrective. like wearing shoes. Lasik also, a surgical enhancement, just like having ACL or Tommy John surgery. I have more trouble with a replacement, one that is potentially superior to not only what it replaced, but what is available biologically (and is integral to the sport being played) I would allow another Jim Abbott, say, to wear an artificial hand, since it was his non-throwing arm, but I wouldn't let him bat with it.

I think the difference here is between enhancement and replacement.
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AngryAmish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 12:47 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. Ballplayers (and Tiger Woods) have overcorrected their vision through surgery
Not to 20/20 but to 20/10 or even 20/5. I would say that is clearly enhancement.

I also don't think this guy should run but there are logical holes a mile wide in drawing artificial lines.
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:01 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. but they didn't get mechanical enhancement
imagine someone invents a bionic eye, same speed and function as a human eye, but it has a zoom feature like a camera lens (hey, it's not past the realm of possibility) that would be mechnical enhancement. people have surgery to remove scar tissue to allow them to move faster, same thing as the lasik. tough calls, you are right.

so, right now I stand at: surgical correction or enhancement? allowed. mechanical replacement or buildins? not allowed.


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hfojvt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 02:33 PM
Response to Reply #17
27. I never knew that and that seems bogus to me
Doing it I mean, not the story that it was done. But I am not a fan of Tiger anyway.

It is not, however, the same as glasses or surgery that is corrective.
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dogday Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:08 AM
Response to Original message
4. Never thought I would see the day when people with legs
would be scared to race those without... I don't know what to say... I believe if they can do it without their limbs, and with prosthetic limbs, then more power to them...
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:46 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. that's the point, though, isn't it?
more power. it's a potential issue. Should he be able to change his legs to match the running surface? to get just the right amount of springiness off each step? how about a marathoner whose legs never tire? who can't get leg cramps, and who has legs that weigh 15 pounds less than yours, since they are made, not of flesh and bone, but aircraft grade titanium? We are rapidly (thankfully) approaching the point where some artificial limbs, in certain circumstances, can outperform their human originals (which isa great advancement for mankind in only 40 years) would you armwrestle someone with a robotic arm? how about another olympic sport, shooting? what about a target shooter whose arm cannot tremble? a cyclist who has legs literally designed to pedal a certain speed, no matter the terrain? it's coming, we are on the frontier or some incredible advanced in biological enhancement. Read More Than Human it's coming. if people will take drugs that they know will harm them for a short term physical edge, who's to say that someone wouldn't replace a body part with a fully functional, higher performing artificial replacement? if I offered you ten million dollars to amputate your leg at the knee and replace it with an artificial limb offering everything but feeling in your toes, would you take it?

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dogday Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:51 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. NO I would not... Running is just a small part of life
When people are in that position not by choice, like a lot of our soldiers, you know that it has to be hard to wear those prosthetics and painful from what I understand too... All the physical therapy... He has had to develop upper thigh muscle strength to control the lower leg... I say he has earned the right...
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 12:05 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. maybe you wouldn't
but a lot of people would. hell, people sell kidneys, and you don't get a replacement for those. if running was your ticket out of extreme poverty, your way to fortune, so you can feed your kids? you might think differently. I assume you also wouldn't take steroids, or EPO simply to run, but obviously others would.

yes, it is certainly hard to get used to. and it can be painful. but compare them to the prosthetics of 20 years ago, and the difference is remarkable, and wonderful. now think about the advances in robotics, computers, materials and microsurgical techniques we will see over the NEXT 20 years. As for developing his thigh muscles, he's a world class sprinter, they all have incredible musculature, his is just slightly different. He is remarkable, no doubt.

if we are using the 'no fault of their own' argument. well, yeah, life's a bitch. It is not anyone's fault they have asthma, for instance, should they be permitted to take oxygen enhancing drugs that others cannot, in order to compete at that level? tough call, but you actually have to say 'no'. the potential for abuse is way too high. Read the book I suggested above, see what is coming, in the forseeable future.
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dogday Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:06 PM
Response to Reply #12
19. Could we not also see someone who has longer legs
than the rest of the runners as not equal? Let's face it, it takes a lot of strength and courage and practice to run on those legs... It's not like he just got up on them and starting running like the wind....
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 08:10 PM
Response to Reply #19
31. work has nothing to do with it
and being born with longer legs, or no legs, is part of the genetic lottery of sport. I wasn't born with the ability to run a 100 meter dash at olympic level, no matter how hard I train, should the playing field be leveled to give me a fair shot? heck, the only way I am doing 100 meters in 9 seconds is on a motorcycle, I demand to be able to use one!
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hfojvt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 02:39 PM
Response to Reply #8
28. ten million?
Heck, I would do it for $500,000, probably even $207,031.83. Imagine being able to get up every day and do whatever you want instead of having to spend so much time at a tedious, tiring job with people you cannot trust. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished for.
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 08:00 PM
Response to Reply #28
30. how very exact...
is that the amount left on your student loans? :)

sorry, I only have $207,031.82, and I only got the 82 cents from looking in the cushions of my couch!
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KittyWampus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:12 AM
Response to Original message
5. How many 'natural' atheletes now use blood doping? Or train in low oxygen environs?
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:50 AM
Response to Reply #5
9. blood doping is banned (see Professional Cycling, Death of)
training in low oxygen is, in my mind, legitimate, since it is open to all with the means (just like all training) and doesn't involve a foreign substance, only the human reaction to a stressor (which is what all training is, really)
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KittyWampus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-18-07 06:04 PM
Response to Reply #9
36. It's a great discussion, IMO. What has happened with pro sports. The use and abuse
of 'enhancers'. The pressure to perform.

I am now thinking of Tonya Harding.

What athletes (people) will do to succeed.
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hfojvt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:24 AM
Response to Original message
6. mabe both - disabled and too abled
Those legs are built for speed, but I wonder how they do on different terrains, or in the water, or in mud or sand. What about balance and turning-ability. Can he hop on one foot, or make moves like Walter Payton? How does he do on stairs? Or at hauling things?

My feeling is that it is a little bit like allowing somebody to compete with a spring-loaded shoe. It's the shoe that makes them fast, and not their legs.
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:54 AM
Response to Reply #6
11. well, I assume he doesn't wear those legs to the grocery
surely they are racing legs. and imagine a swimmer! how big are we going to allow his feet to be? Ian Thorpe, for instance, has massively long feet, great as flippers, how long and wide could artifical ones be?
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SmokingJacket Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 12:09 PM
Response to Original message
13. Which raises the question, why do we revere "natural" athletes so much
anyway? Who cares if so and so can run a mile 1.5 seconds faster?

Guys like this will render the Olympics moot, and that's a good thing.
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mainegreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 12:41 PM
Response to Original message
16. How do other legless atheletes perform?
Are they all much faster than their equivalent legged associates? Or is he just naturally fast?
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KamaAina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:13 PM
Response to Reply #16
20. He's just naturally fast
i.e. faster than all the other competitors in events for athletes with disabilities. The main one, the Paralympics, is held after the Olympics in the Olympic city, and is telecast worldwide except (surprise!) in the good ol' U.S. of A. on NBC. :eyes:

Once at full speed Sunday, Pistorius handily won the 100 and 200 meters here at the Paralympic World Cup, an international competition for disabled athletes....

Since March, Pistorius has delivered startling record performances for disabled athletes at 100 meters (10.91 seconds), 200 meters (21.58 seconds) and 400 meters (46.34 seconds).
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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. ESPN, I think, does an hour or two.
:eyes:

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ComerPerro Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:28 PM
Response to Original message
23. All I know is this poor guy is in the middle of a major ideological debate right now
The left is using his example to say that people are equal, and if he feels he can compete at the olympic level then he should.

The right, of course, comes in with their usual bullshit, saying things like this guy is a hero because he proves that people can overcome disability, which is true, but then expanding that to say that his example proves that since people who are determined can "rise above", then there is no need for speical accomodations for the disabled.

It reminds me of that Will Smith movie I never saw, but everyone was talking about.

On the one hand, its an uplifting story of the struggles of a father trying to make it, but on the other hand it is RW propaganda that tells us that anyone can become a millionaire, as long as they sacrifice and work hard.

Problem with the right wing in both of these examples is that they treat the exceptional cases like average, everyday occurances.
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hfojvt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 01:52 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. I made the analogy to slavery
In 1858, they could have made the argument, pointing to examples of slaves that escaped. Some people can escape slavery just like some people can escape poverty. So the problem, the Republican tells the poor and the slave, isn't slavery (or poverty or temp jobs and low wages for crappy jobs) - it's you!
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 03:25 PM
Response to Original message
29. Cases like this are just the tip of the comming iceberg.
Just wait until there are cyborgs and genetically engineered people. There will be "bio-conservative" bigots going around.
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northzax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 08:14 PM
Response to Reply #29
32. bio-conservative bigots?
great term. not neccesarily relevant. I personally think that all technology should be used to make life easier for people, including those for whom genetics or misadventure has denied. doesn't mean that such technology has a place in sport, without a better discussion of the potential consequences.
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Canuckistanian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 08:16 PM
Response to Original message
33. I think there should be two classes - "Stock" and "Modified"
And the ones who "self-medicate" should also belong to the "Modified" category.

Like Barry Bonds.
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kskiska Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 10:40 PM
Response to Original message
34. 



Rene Richards (born Richard Raskind August 19, 1934, in New York City) is a physician and professional tennis player.

In 1975 she underwent sex reassignment surgery.

In 1976 the United States Tennis Association denied her entrance into the U.S. Open. She challenged the ban, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1977.

more
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renee_Richards
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alphafemale Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 10:57 PM
Response to Original message
35. He doesn't look like a lifelong "Sprinter." They have very little body fat.
Edited on Thu May-17-07 10:57 PM by alphafemale
They've worked hours every day at the blocks since they were little kids and have the lithe, hungry look of a cheetah.

If he competes every athlete gets those two foot long springs on their shoes.
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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-18-07 07:10 PM
Response to Original message
37. It's a fascinating story
I have no problem with him running.
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