I feel bad, but Pistorius shouldn't be an Olympian
By Michael Rosenberg
Updated: January 14, 2008, 7:40 PM EST
So this is what it's come to. I should not be surprised. Competitive sports and modern technology have been careening toward this moment for quite a while, past Ben Johnson and extra-large outfielder's mitts and Dennis Conner's catamaran and Casey Martin and BALCO and those silly one-piece men's swimsuits and human growth hormone ... to where I found myself Monday:
I read that an amputee has been banned from the Olympics, and I agreed with it.
Let's sum this up, OK? The Olympics are not just a sporting event; they are supposed to be a celebration of sports' ideals. The Olympics bring together countries that want nothing to do with each other the rest of the year. Athletes from third-world villages somehow find their way there, knowing they have no chance of winning a medal, just for the honor of competing.
And here I am, supporting the banning of an amputee.
Um ... just to clarify: a double-amputee.
The man's name is Oscar Pistorius. He was born without fibulas. He is a sprinter.
Me? I'm just your run-of-the-mill horrible person.
Hey, I tried to change my mind. I did my best. But I couldn't get past the idea that you run with your legs, and that the best runners in the world, by definition, need to run with their legs. Isn't that what we're measuring when there are six sprinters on the track together? Who can run the fastest?
I'm not totally opposed to an exception to the rule. But the International Association of Athletics Federations ruled that Pistorius' prostheses (called "Cheetahs") are built to resist less wind than legs, and therefore give Pistorius an unfair advantage. That makes sense to me. If you look at a photo of Pistorius you can see how thin the prostheses are.
I suspect that many readers agree with me. And I suspect that many think I'm a heartless twit.
But I hope we can all agree on this: with sports and technology, it's just a matter of where you draw the line.
Some people think steroids should be legal; I think there is enough evidence that they are a health risk, and people should not be forced to use them to compete, so they should be banned.
I support jet planes over train travel and LASIK surgery for those who want it and surgery where you get a graft from a cadaver. I'm OK with oversized outfielder's gloves and maple (instead of white ash) bats. I'm even fine with the radio receiver inside a quarterback's helmet. I have even come to accept that NASCAR is a sport.
I remember when I was a teenager and Reebok came out with its "Pump" basketball shoes, which allowed fierce competitors such as myself to pump a little more air into our sneakers, therefore increasing our vertical leap from 9.5 inches to 9.6 inches. I was fine with that little bit of technology.
And when Casey Martin wanted to use a cart around PGA Tour courses, because his circulatory disorder made his leg extremely weak, I supported him fully. Walking, I said, was not an essential part of golf, no matter what any golfer said. (I should know. I've played lousy golf with and without a cart.)
And when the occasional amputee competes in high school wrestling, in a weight class where he has an upper-body advantage (because he has no weight below the thighs) and some opposing coach complains ... well, I always stand by the wrestler. You wrestle with your body. It's not the kid's fault that his body is different from the other kids' bodies.
I felt good about where I stood on all this — until Monday, when I staked out my official position against an amputee.
It's a technology-crazed sports world; I just write in it.
Read this article at:http://msn.foxsports.com/olympics/story/7675618
Oscar Pistorius was ruled ineligible to compete in the 2008 Olympics.