For the first time in the history of the Olympic games in the Summer of 2012 a double amputee competed against able-bodied athletes in the Men’s 400m relay. Oscar Pistorius took part in the event this year after just missing out of the South African team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, his participation in the event has caused controversy amongst other athletes and it is now argued as to whether or not he should be allowed to compete.
The Olympic games is a competition to find the best of the best. Athletes from around the world come to one place to
win the title of the Olympic Champion however does the use of performance enhancing equipment, such as artificial limbs, give the athlete an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes?
Pistorius’ carbon fibre artificial limbs were expertly designed in order to help him sprint to the best of his ability but to what level can we allow the technology to advance? Should the technology be advanced to be as human like as possible such as weight and springiness or should it be advanced to help the runner move faster, with a lightweight material and a higher spring tension? And how will we measure a control for the technology?
As able-bodied athletes get fitter, faster and stronger how will we measure the standard of the technology? Should they use Usain Bolt as a control for the technology or would this be unfair to those that are at the moment not the same speed as Bolt? Is it also fair on the disabled athlete to be limited because of what their opponents can and cannot do?
With the use of artificial limbs there is the potential to make a ‘superhuman’ athlete. No longer bound by the limits of a human body it could possibly give amputees an unfair advantage over the average able-bodied Olympic athlete. An able-bodied runner will suffer from ankle and calf muscle pain that will limit what the athlete can do however someone with an artificial limb may not experience the same limitations.
There are other sports that should also be taken into consideration for example the high jump. It cannot be guaranteed that an artificial leg will not give the advantage of spring over a normal knee and if someone is a double amputee to what length should you make the limbs that would not give an unfair advantage of height in comparison to an able-bodied athlete?
Could we ultimately develop an artificial arm with the ability to throw a shot put further than someone with a human arm?
It takes skill to be able to use the technology to its maximum efficiency however once mastered would this performance enhancing equipment create an advantage that an able-bodied athlete cannot hope to match.