Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blade Runner Falls Short

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics, despite posting a personal best time of 46.25 in the 400m (qualifying time needed to be 45.55). Pistorius has been involved in court battles regarding his prosthetic blades and whether they give him an unfair advantage over other runners.

As a former track athlete, I can understand the cries of unfair advantage, but how exactly do you deal with an athlete born without fibulas in both legs? Maybe this is our first real foray into the ethics of human cybernetics. Some athletes argue that because Pistorius has no legs, he doesn't have to deal with lactic acid build-up in his muscles. Then again, athletes with legs don't have to worry as much about rain messing up their traction or having one-third the spring of a real human leg. The controversey continues, with some scientists finding that Pistorius does indeed have a clear advantage. Regardless, it's an amazing story of willpower and a prelude to what could become a much wider debate.