American athlete Aimee Mullins has been a guest editor over at Gizmodo recently, and her “Racing on Carbon Fibre Legs” is worth a read on Cheetah legs, Pistorius, an ableism. Amongst the things of interest are:
As of yet, the best prosthetic available is not as efficient and not as capable as what Mother Nature gives us — or, what she was supposed to give me and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. The revolutionary design of the woven carbon-fibre Cheetah Leg, nicknamed for its design inspiration, has been in existence for nearly 15 years — and after my initial triumphs with them in the mid 1990s, it has been the leg of choice for nearly all elite amputee sprinters. But in one instant, after Pistorius entered a summer 2007 track meet in Rome and placed second in a field of runners possessing flesh and bone legs, he and I were deemed too abled.
There is now a nice pair of videos, running for just under 12 minutes, on Oscar Pistorius, made shortly before the Beijing Olympics, up on Youtube. They take the story up to the point where the Court for Arbitration in Sport overruled the initial IAFF decision banning him from competing with non-disabled athletes. For that decision, see Gregor Wolbring’s thoughts and related discussion in earlier posts here and here.
Here is Gregor Wolbring‘s talk at the Human Kinds Symposium, including my introduction of Gregor and almost the first half of his talk. Gregor’s focus in this part is on enhancement, “techno-doping”, and ableism. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3!
Gregor also writes a regular column, The Choice is Yours, and you can find more information about him there.
As with other videos in this series, apologies for no captioning yet, but we hope to have that finished in the next few weeks, and will let you know when captioning is up.
Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius won today’s 100 meters at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, though he missed his objective of beating his own world record time. South Africa’s Pistorius, nicknamed “Blade Runner” because of his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, finished in 11.17 seconds at the Bird’s Nest stadium, about a quarter of a second slower than his world mark of 10.91 set last year. Continue reading →
An opinion piece in the New York Times by Jennifer Finney Boylan, “The XY Games”, explores the practice of gender testing in the Olympics to determine that female athletes are in fact female. The author discusses the history of this testing, its faults, and the ambiguity of sex and gender. Amongst some of the things that one might want to discuss is the following:
“So what makes someone female then? If it’s not chromosomes, or a uterus, or the ability to get pregnant, or femininity, or being attracted to men, then what is it, and how can you possibly test for it? Continue reading →
Being an L1 paraplegic who also swims to keep fit and who grew up as a competitive swimmer, I was amazed when I read about this South African amputee swimmer who made it to the Beijing Olympics in the able bodied 10km open water swim. Natalie Du Toit was amputated through her left knee after being hit by a car back in 2001. She does not use a prosthetic leg when she swims. She recently came fourth in the Open Water World Championships where she qualified for Beijing. I am looking forward to seeing how she performs at the Olympics later this summer.
This article talks more about her story. I decided to blog on this after reading about Oscar Pistorius on the post by Spirit of the Time. Update ( 08.08.08 ) by Spirit of the Time: see also this more recent What Sorts post on Natalie Du Toit, written just before and after the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics.
Oscar Pistorius will be racing over this weekend in The Netherlands. At least some of the races, especially the 400 metres, will give him an opportunity to set a time that improves his chances of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics; his personal best time is 1 second slower than the qualifying time, and he’s apparently not in top-form right now. But still … he’s probably got as good a chance as the Penguins have of trumping the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup. The CBC has a nice short story on this right here.
Go, Oscar, go!
Update: news of his 200 metre run from Sports Illustrated, and now of his 100 and 400 metre runs here. Oscar needs to shave just more than 2 seconds off his 400 metre time in order to qualify for the South African team by qualification time, unless no other South African has a qualifying time.
I’d be curious what readers think about the above video of bionic athlete Oscar Pistorius, obviously made before the most recent decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which Gregor Wolbring has discussed in earlier posts on the blog, including here. Anyone know where the video comes from? Who do you think the basic message is? What does it say about the Olympics? What does it mean to you? The thread for comments is open.
My two main thoughts after reading the ruling and the press release are
1) The ruling I assume will be interpreted to be a ruling against the scientific data claiming that the cheetah legs lead to an unfair advantage. The ruling leaves the door open that one could exclude a runner with prosthetics from competing in a ‘natural leg’ running event if it can be proven that the ‘artificial’ legs lead to an unfair advantage.
This makes sense . So far the process of investigating theses new ‘artificial’ legs is not developed enough to be called a golden standard so its open for interpretations. Once tests are developed that are accepted as the golden standard and they show an unfair advantage one can see that that runner won’t be allowed to run against the ‘biological leg’ runners.
2) However the ruling seems to give the answer to another question. Are the Olympics about athletes who have a body adhering to the norm of the homo sapient species? In other words is the Olympics about athletes with a ‘normal biological body’? The ruling cements the view that the Olympics are not about biological bodies per se. So one can compete in the Olympics independent of whether certain biological parts are replaced by artificial parts.
If the replacement does not lead to a competitive advantage athletes with artificial body parts can compete against athletes where the body part in question is biological and not artificial.
If the replacement does leads to a competitive advantage one could see the ruling opening the door for the scenario where the athletes with artificial body parts compete against each others in the Olympics
whereby the artificial body parts are treated like a pole used in pole vaulting…
In a unanimous ruling, the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Friday that double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius will have a chance to represent South Africa at the Beijing Olympics this summer.