New news on Oscar Pistorius's attempt to compete against able-bodied competition in IAAF sanctioned meets. The IAAF has decided to allow him to compete pending further research. Until it turns out that his prosthetic blades give him an advantage, he will not be barred from competition.
I've written about Oscar here and (more hyperbolically) here. There was also a nice discussion about Oscar at Run to Win, in which many of the issues in his case were brought up (in the comments). Another good article was written by Amby Burfoot at Runner's World in which he argues against allowing Oscar into the able-bodied competitions, based mostly on the slippery-slope argument: what's to stop Oscar from getting better equipment and improving that way?
It's a valid argument, assuming no oversight. But there is oversight. There is the IAAF. Do I trust them to do everything correctly? No way. But if they test Oscar's legs and determine that he gets no more than, say, 50% (my imaginary number) of the spring of a human leg, it isn't hard to determine that he isn't getting the advantage everyone claims. Again, it's a big if. But if that's how it is, then the IAAF could determine an acceptable level, and then not allow anyone to compete using anything springier.
That's my one paragraph response to Amby. I realize it opens up new cans of worms. How accurate are their measurments? What's an acceptable level? Etcetera. I don't think the issue will ever be answered to everyone's satisfaction. But given that, there is a "best way" to approach the situation, and that does not involve knee-jerk rules and regulations. It involves studying, learning, and applying restraint only when necessary.
On that note, I really just want to make clear that I applaud the approach being taken by the IAAF. As IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said, "This issue is so new. Oscar is an exceptional athlete, maybe unique. He is on the very edge of disabled and able-bodied sports. No one else has ever done that, that is why we are in the dark."
My objections in the past were based on the seemingly automatic assumption that disabled athletes were somehow less talented than able-bodied athletes, that their success was based on technology and not hard work, and the knee-jerk reaction to ban him from competing despite any evidence to support the above notions. It makes me feel good to see that the IAAF is taking a more reasonable approach to this matter.
As for whether or not this will become a viable issue (i.e. whether or not Oscar will qualify) we have to wait and see. He's only 20 years old, though. If he sticks with it, I can certainly imagine him getting those times by 2012, if not 2008.