Pistorius style tech threatens the Olympics’ integrity
Has Oscar Pistorius shot himself in the blade? (Image: AFP)
The dust has settled on the second best Olympics ever, but an uncomfortable question surely lingers. What was Oscar Pistorius, a disabled athlete, doing competing at the Olympics, the planet’s zenith of athletic endeavour?
Oscar’s name conjures up a thousand thoughts. His is an inspirational story of a disabled athlete competing at the Olympics and of triumph over great adversity.
But one also thinks of that unintentionally ironic complaint about his competitors in the subsequent Paralympics.
It’s not that Oscar, the Blade Runner, doesn’t have a great story to tell. We all know it. With both legs amputated, there exists the technology that allows him to compete at the highest level. And what a wonderful, heart-warming story it is.
But it does give rise to an inevitable head-on collision between technological advancement and political correctness. To cut to the chase: when does the assistance rendered by advancements in the kinetic ability of prosthetics become, well, performance enhancing?
There is no question that it is awe-inspiring for a human being who has lost part of his or her physical being to be able to acquire the means to mix it up with able-bodied athletes.
But with technology having allowed that achievement, where does it end? Surely the inevitability is that, having achieved the ability to compete against the greatest able-bodied athletes in the world, the next incremental advancement in this technology means that the disabled athlete can and will go faster than the able-bodied one.
Then, suddenly, technology will allow the Blade Runner to outrun Usain Bolt. The inevitable consequence is that one day the Olympic 100m final will be filled with the most technologically advanced disabled athletes the world has ever seen.
Where will that leave the Olympic motto? Higher, faster, stronger, better blades?
It is this absurdity that we need to guard against. While the Olympic movement bathes in the feel-good factor of an amputee being able to compete in an Olympic relay, the reality is set to become very messy.
With the technology that allows Pistorius to compete having been passed, the CSIRO, in partnership with the AIS, should be working out how to convert Australia’s limited stock of amputees into guinea pigs for the latest in Kevlar propulsion.
Amusingly, the fundamental issue surrounding Pistorius competing in the Olympics was best brought to life during the Paralympics, when, having lost the 200 metres to an athlete with longer prosthetic legs, he was quoted as saying “We aren’t racing a fair race”.
Poor old Oscar, beaten by better technology? Without some decisive action now, that will be the undoing of the Olympics.