I will try to explain in detail why I do not agree with those who reacted negatively to the news that Pistorius will be given the opportunity to attempt qualifying for the Olympics.
And no, I will not use emotional arguments.
There are several objections I have heard, and none of them stands up to scrutiny. Some say that the artificial legs give Pistorius an unfair advantage: well, then it’s not a matter of preventing him to compete, rather to help hilm design legs without unfair advantages.
Others declare their opposition to the use of any “non-natural equipment” at the Olympics: shall we then also prohibit hi-tech swimming gear, and super-special running shoes? Or at least make sure everybody uses the same gear, and the same shoes.
In truth, there already is a “mechanical device” that allows people with disabilities to compete with all others: that is, glasses. I am extremely short-sighted myself: I would be almost blind, if I had not the good fortune of being born in an age where the right type of correcting lenses are available.
Unfortunately many others, for example those forced to move on wheelchairs, have no such luck (yet).
Now, is there anybody willing to say that short-sighted people ought not to compete for example in archery, as glasses could provide unfair advantages compared to “normal people”? After all, the ability to focus at large distances is very important in some sports and it can happen (as it happened to me) that glasses or contact lenses correct vision to 11/10.
Years ago, by the way, a female archers has been allowed to compete from a wheelchair…
What’s’ so different, in the Pistorius case? The fact that glasses are known and accepted by all, even in everyday life, while artificial legs are good at the moment only for running, look “alien” to most and therefore raise a certain fear of the “new and different”.
But in that case the problem is not with Pistorius, rather with those who are still not accepting the possibility that even if “running” means “on two legs”, still doesn’t necessarily mean “the same legs you were born with”.
Others still worry that the Pistorius will set a precedent, and the IOC has opened a dangerous door unto the unknown. Such “precautionary principle” is very dangerous in general (none should use bathrooms at home, for example, since that’s where most of the accidents happen), and in this particular case, too simplistic.
What will happen, in fact, after the decision favourable to Pistorius? Other amputees will try to follow, and the IOC and the International Athletics Federation will finally define the standards necessary for the approval of an artificial leg.
Therefore, scientific and technological research will focus on creating artificial legs more and more similar to natural ones, which in all likelihood will translate into better models intended for use also in everyday life.
And so even putting aside the emotional considerations around the Pistorius case, it is time to loudly cheer for Pistorius: just as years ago for Bosman, who courageously and tenaciously demolished an entire slave system, I mean the European market for football players.