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Monday, August 6, 2012

The Slippery Olympic Slope to "Fairness"

Oscar Pistorius
Last week I wrote  "US Olympics, Full Circle with the GDR."

But there is an additional controversy that is also troubling: Oscar Pistorious and his artificial lower legs.  Pistorious as a baby had both his lower legs amputated.  Today he competes in the Olympics with J-shaped carbon fiber "ankles."

Now its not the issue that Pistorious chooses to compete that's what's troubling and certainly nothing about him personally.

The problem as I see it is that Pistorious used a lawyer to challenge the International Association of Athletics Foundations (IAAF) ruling that banned him from competing in events like the Olympics.  Initially the IAAF banned him because of a study they did showing Pistorious used 25% less energy than a runner with naturally formed legs.

Pistorious and his lawyer challenged this and won.

Accomplishing it by creating a new study that showed Pistorious "physiologically similar but mechanically dissimilar" to someone with natural legs.

So the idea here is that Pistorious and his artificial legs are somehow equal to natural legs.  This implies that the legs offer him no advantage over any other athlete.

The problem here that I see is three fold:

A) Pistorious is using legal leverage to deem himself "equivalent" to other athletes even though in actuality his legs are mechanically different.

B) The current "legs" he uses could easily be modified to offer him a mechanical advantage in the future, i.e., even if the current study is true who is to say some upgrade will not give him an advantage.

C) His actions open the door for any athlete to claim "legal equivalence" principle.

So let's take this to its logical conclusion:

As a power lifter I can claim that my body works below some "average" weight lifting ability.  Can I not use the same reasoning to claim I should be able to use steroids to make the contest more fair, i.e., to bring myself up to the "standard" of other athletes?

Clearly Pistorious was disadvantaged by his body structure at birth - no fault of his own.

No different than myself, for example, with a body not suited to weight lifting.

Couldn't I make the same claim relative to weight lifting and using steroids as Pistorious did with his J-legs?

In the 1970's the horse Secretariat won the triple crown.  Later it was discovered that his heart was significantly larger than that of other horses giving him a significant advantage.

Was that fair?

Secretariat's nemesis was Sham - a horse with a significantly smaller heart - who dogged him at each of the triple crown races after beating him in other races.

Could Sham's owner cry foul given Secretariat had an unfair advantage?

Could he take Secretariat to the various associations governing horse racing to get compensation?

I think this is all a very slippery slope.

Ultimately any kind of race or competition has to be "unfair" in order for their to be a winner and loser.

But in the end I cannot see how this development at the Olympics will take us anywhere but to legal cries of "unfair advantage" and corresponding compensation - whether its J-legs or drugs for enhancement.

Will someone have their legs amputated in order to compete?

Today's world is full of "fairness" and "force equality."

And that will only take us further down the slope...

Professional and amateur sports alike will suffer as this kind of thinking grows legal legs.

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