Maurizio – Omnologos

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Pistorius Ban Reveals IAAF’s Stupid Hypocrisy

with 10 comments

The IAAF has banned blade-running Oscar Pistorius from the Bejing Olympic Games, because according to a study, his prosthetics offer “unfair advantage”.

It is a very sad, and very wrong decision. Sad, because it could have been an emotionally-charged August afternoon in Beijing, seeing Pistorius compete with people whose legs have not been amputated at 11 months of age. A truly epoch-defining, world-uniting happening.

It is wrong, because Pistorius’ would have been the only publicly-declared “unfair advantage”, whilst performance-enhancing drug use is still so widespread. The underlying premises for the decision sound quite peculiar too: will the IAAF disqualify tall athletes from high or long jump, as they have an “unfair advantage” over people of short stature? Are we going to see a manual of “standard athlete measurements” with people too far off one of the scales banned from competition?

The funniest part is that Pistorius is unlikely to qualify for the Olympics finals anyway. So this shot-in-the-foot by the IAAF is worse than useless, and doubly stupid.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/14 at 13:30:36

Posted in Olympics

Tagged with ,

10 Responses

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  1. I dare say you have not considered the facts of the case, but base your opinion on purely emotional responses. I would encourage you to read the reports, the analysis and try to understand the situation, then it becomes quite obvious why he should be banned.

    This is not a matter of “uniting the world” through the participation of an amputee in the Olympics. It is a case of dividing the sport of athletics by introducing technology that has a massive impact on performance.

    Pistorius is a great role model, an inspiration and a fine athlete. But he’s not an Olympic athlete – that possibility exists only due to technology. And for that reason, the ban must stand.


    Ross Tucker

    2008/Jan/14 at 13:46:36

  2. thank you Ross. Are you saying that were Pistorius able to run like Michael Johnson (and so sprint the 400m, say, in 33 seconds, that is 43.18 minus 25%), then the blades could be acceptable? It would be hard NOT to consider him an Olympic athlete, in those circumstances.

    Or alternatively: do you believe all it would take is for Pistorius to turn up with blades “certified as providing no boost in performance”, for the ban to be lifted?


    People get special training for the Olympics, eat special diets, wear special clothes and special shoes, and live a special regime, more usually than not for longer than a decade. They even go to special schools.

    Why would you not consider _that_ as “technology that has a massive impact on performance”?

    It is obvious that all of of a top athlete’s “special life” _already has_ a massive impact on performance, otherwise we could just pick up untrained people from the street and see who runs faster.


    2008/Jan/14 at 15:31:22

  3. The only problem with those factors is that they are available to all – the question we should be asking is if Jeremy Wariner shows up running in shoes that resemble the carbon-fibre blades, and runs a 41 second time, what would our reaction be then? If any athlete disappears for a season and suddenly emerges running 2 seconds faster than usual for a 400m race, then I would want to know for certain that this advantage is due to his training (my first suspicion would be drugs, thanks to the nature of the sport, which I readily acknowledge!).

    But if this technology were introduced, then there is no guarantee that the athlete has not improved by 2 seconds because they have worked with an engineer and a shoe company to develop a new material that saves 10% of their energy and gives them 30% more elastic return.

    Now, the resultant problem is that if they allow the technology at certain levels, then they must enforce it and regulate it. So where we currently have anti-doping controls, we would have to introduce anti-technological aid controls too. Imagine the Olympic Champion being stripped of his gold medal not because he failed a steroid test, but because his shoes “failed to conform to the accepted guidelines for energy return and elasticity”. It would create even more of a circus than we already have.

    Now, as to the point about diet, special schools, training regimes, the difference there is that the athlete is not manipulating the system through addition, but only training. This is actually a fairly common debate in the exercise science and physiology field when it comes to doping – some people say that one should ban training because it enhances performance. The difference is that training is an active process, and for that reason it’s not banned. So the World Anti-doping agency bans practices that are “Passive” in nature. The use of the carbon fibre blades is most definitely passive. In fact, in all the arguments and physiological debates about Pistorius, this is the key point – the Cheetah provides passive energy return and thus costs less to run.

    So based on that principle, one cannot compare the Cheetah to those other practices which are active. To doping, yes you can compare it. But to suggest that the IAAF are hypocrites because they ban the technology while doping continues misses the point – the IAAF has also banned doping, it’s just that the dopers are a step ahead of detection. If they were not absolutely strict on this issue, then the engineers would also be a step ahead…

    Finally, you ask whether it would be acceptable if Michael Johnson ran 33 seconds? Well, of course not, that’s the whole point – you cannot have artificially improved performances through passive means. It would be completely unacceptable if an able-bodied athlete showed up in space-age carbon fiber shoes that gave him this size of advantage. We’d all be complaining then…


    Ross Tucker

    2008/Jan/14 at 20:27:21

  4. > Imagine the Olympic Champion being
    > stripped of his gold medal […]
    > because his shoes “failed to
    > conform to the accepted guidelines

    No need to imagine. It’s called “Formula 1”.

    > this is the key point – the
    > Cheetah provides passive energy
    > return and thus costs less to
    > run

    Back to my question then: is it just a matter of “inventing” blades that do _not_ provide advantage?

    > to suggest that the IAAF are
    > hypocrites

    They are behaving in a hypocrite fashion because they _know_ doping is taking place but choose instead to _ban_ somebody that found a way to run alongside everybody else, with his “unfair advantage” placed in full view.

    A little less hypocrisy would have allowed them to _suspend_ Pistorius whilst recommending a different design for the blades.

    > you ask whether it would be
    > acceptable if Michael Johnson
    > ran 33 seconds?

    No. I said: you do not see Pistorius at the Olympics because “he’s not an Olympic athlete”. My question is: if Pistorius could demonstrate skills comparable to Michael Johnson’s, would you support his participation?


    2008/Jan/14 at 20:50:26

  5. “will the IAAF disqualify tall athletes from high or long jump, as they have an “unfair advantage” over people of short stature?”

    If the tall athlete was wearing stilts then yes, I hope they would.

    Richard Cutts

    2008/Jan/14 at 21:15:09

  6. Richard

    > If the tall athlete was wearing
    > stilts

    Aren’t they…born with them? Wouldn’t Prof Brueggemann be able to measure the clear advantage of being taller, for jumping higher or longer?

    Somebody before me has already suggested that, in the future, results will be “adjusted” by the athlete’s characteristics, so that nobody will be advantaged by chance of birth. That will kill off the danger of genetic enhancement.


    2008/Jan/14 at 21:21:37

  7. Aren’t they…born with them?

    Yes, born with them.
    As in the human body.
    Not mechanically engineered assists.

    I will admit it’s not black and white and there is a line that has to be drawn somewhere.
    For example if I said no mechanical interference with an athletes body should never take place then you could counter with “What about fancy running shoes” or someone that broke their leg and had it pinned.

    That being said, as far as I am concerned if you have a physical disability like that then I’m very sorry and I hope I never have to know how shit it is but you are disabled and thats the way it is. The world does not owe you a head start.

    Richard Cutts

    2008/Jan/14 at 23:07:15

  8. Richard

    I don’t necessarily disagree on the “head start” business. It’s the _ban_ business that makes me angry though.

    As short-sighted athletes are able to compete with glasses/contact lenses (that make them _equal_ to the rest), so anybody without legs should be allowed to compete with the right set of prosthetics.


    2008/Jan/15 at 00:17:57

  9. […] The arbitrate tribunal TAS in Switzerland has finally started to redress the scandal of the IAAF’s stupid hypocrisy in keeping Oscar Pistorius out of the Olympics as a matter of principle disguised as a technical […]

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