Tuesday, August 7, 2012

'Blade Runner' blows past our ideas of 'disability'

Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics, wrote about Oscar Pistorius, the South African amputee who is running in the 2012 Olympics, as a guest blogger for CNN.com. Dubbed the “Blade Runner,” for his high-tech, carbon-fiber “Cheetah” legs, Pistorius assembled his own legal and scientific team to make a successful bid to compete in the Olympics. But, as Wolpe writes, the story is far from over, with no general guidelines about the future use of “adaptive sports equipment.” An excerpt from the article:

Photo by Elvar Paisson/Wikipedia Commons.
“The issue will have to be revisited by each new athlete who wants to use artificial mechanisms in competition. …

“We do not ultimately know the degree to which technology mimics true physiological function. What if an amputee high jumper wants to use Cheetahs; what level of springiness is "fair" against able-bodied athletes? What about a swimmer who wants to use prosthetic hands or legs? Or an archer whose prosthetic arm does not tremble like an arm of flesh and blood? We do not have metrics that can determine true equivalence with able-bodied athletes.

“Then there is the issue of fairness. In this year's U.S. Olympic trials, Dathan Ritzenhein, the two-time Olympian and 5k American record holder, was eliminated from the marathon team because of leg cramps. Pistorius cannot get cramps in his calves because he does not have any, and so he can never be eliminated based on this criterion.

“The Pistorius case confronts us with two important questions. What is a disability? And what is the rationale for elite sport?”

Read the whole article at CNN.com.

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