With Oscar Pistorius set to run in the Olympics on Saturday, the controversy of the "unfair advantage" has hit a boiling point. As an amputee and somebody who lives with the reality of utilizing a prosthesis on a daily basis, I find the fallacy infuriating. I cannot fathom the notion that seemingly intelligent people actually assert that missing both legs is an advantage for a runner!
been spending a lot of time enlightening the naysayers on forums and
through comments on articles and blogs. The proponents of the "unfair
advantage" seem to cite the same concerns, without facts, when
justifying their position. I understand why they are sticking with
"perhaps" or "could be" justifications because the facts are clearly
The controversy first came to light
several years ago when Oscar made his first bid at the Olympics. An
Olympic scientific committee was convened to examine the issue with
the findings initially seeming to confirm the "prosthetic advantage."
According to researchers, Pistorius' cheetah legs provided him with an
astounding 90% energy return, considerably higher than the purported 60%
by the intact human foot. Immediately the controversy of whether or not
carbon fiber prostheses sparked an unfair advantage hit a furious
Upon further examination, it was discovered that researchers involved
with the initial study failed to
cite the energy return of the human foot with an intact calf muscle
(which, in the case of Pistorius is obviously missing). The human foot,
with an intact calf muscle, has an energy return of 254%. All seem to
agree that a prosthesis
cannot provide more than 90% return due to energy lost due to
components. It was determined that the carbon fiber prostheses render
Pistorius with a 164% energy return deficit over his bi-legged
competitors. Although very good prosthetics, the technology does not
replace the muscle lost.
With the energy return theory debunked, many are citing
differences in oxygen expenditures as an unfair advantage. I have read
rationalizations that an amputee does not have to work as hard to walk
and move because the prosthesis does the work. Obviously these
individuals have never tried to walk on a prosthesis!
has long been accepted by authorities in the field that amputees have to
work harder to ambulate and to run. The body must compensate for the
lack of muscle and bone, putting more strain on the remaining
structures. According to research from the Amputee Research Centre, a
below knee amputee (such as Oscar) expends a whopping 200% increase in
oxygen consumption to simply walk. Oscar uses more energy when walking
and running because of his prostheses, not less.
it pathetic that the "unfair advantage" debate still mars this
extraordinary achievement. Perhaps it is human nature to cast doubt. I
suspect that jealousy fuels many of these commentators. Maybe it is
intimidating knowing that a man who stands 5'2" and uses prosthetic legs
could be competitive on the world stage!
The fact remains
Saturday morning, Oscar will take to the track and run because he has
earned his position, not because he has somehow cheated. Insinuating an
"amputee advantage" is insulting to every individual living with a limb
He has achieved Olympian status because of his will and his hard work,
not because of the carbon fiber and components in his prosthesis.
- I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.