Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter known as "blade runner," has qualified for the 2012 London Olympics and has once again raised the question about the fairness of his participation. You see, Pistorius is a double amputee and he runs on carbon-fiber blades attached to his legs. Many argue that this bit of technology gives him an unfair advantage.
Pistorius was born without fibula bones and when he was 11 months old, he had both legs amputated below the knee. His artificial legs are attached at the knee and often cause blisters and raw skin due to the friction they cause when he runs.
This condition did not stop Pistorius and he is already a gold medalist in the Paralympics. However, Pistorius had a dream to compete in the Olympics and he has been fighting for the last six years to be able to compete.
After extensive testing, the Court of Arbitration for Sport determined that his blades did not give him an advantage over able-bodied athletes and he was cleared to compete for a spot on the Olympic team. He has been named on the team and will be competing in the 400m individual and the 4X400 relay in London.
However, many, including American Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, still believe Pistorius has an unfair advantage. Johnson told the London Telegraph, "I consider Oscar a friend of mine, but he knows I am against him running. Because this is not about Oscar; it's not about him as an individual, it is about the rules you will make and put in place for the sport which will apply to anyone, and not just Oscar."
Johnson continued to say that Team GB 400m runner Roger Black said it best when he said, "What happens when we have a Michael Johnson, a 43-second 400-metre runner, who then has a horrific accident and then becomes a disabled athlete and then you put him on blades, these prosthetics, and he is now running 41 seconds?"
As someone who has been a Special Olympics coach for many years, I have been around people of all disabilities and to say that a prosthetic gives them an advantage is just crazy. I mean, if that were the case, wouldn't many Paralympic athletes already be winning Olympic gold medals and beating out able-bodied athletes on a regular basis?
His legs may look a little different, but they still present problems. The blisters and the friction that they cause to his limbs can create a disadvantage that able-bodied runners do not deal with. It is a balance and Pistorius has learned to make the most of it. If he can run at the level of top Olympic athletes, then he deserves to be competing against them.
I know that I will definitely be watching and cheering him on. While Pistorius has made his goal to at least make the semi-final round, I would love to see him make the podium.
What do you think? Do his carbon blades give him an advantage? Should he be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes?
Deborah Braconnier is a former athlete and avid sports and Olympics fan. She now works as a freelance writer and Featured Contributor for the Olympics and NFL and brings her love of sports to her writing. As a former medical professional, she promotes nutrition and fitness for everyone. Follow her on Twitter @fwcdeborah and @healthykidsgrow.