Prosthetic Legs in the Olympics

Eveleth, Rose. “Should Oscar Pistorius’s Prosthetic Legs Disqualify Him from the Olympics?” Scientific American, 24 July 2012, -debate-oscar-pistorius-prosthetic-legs-disqualify-him-olympics/. Accessed 19 Oct. 2016.

In this article, the author explores the debate behind Oscar Pistorius’s prosthetic legs. After Pistorius began to define himself as a force to be reckoned with in the qualifying rounds of the 2008 Olympics, groups of people began to question whether his prosthetic legs were an advantage or a disadvantage. The first study to be done was performed by a group of German scientists in 2007. These researchers reported that Pistorius used approximately twenty five percent less energy than regular Olympic runners and he should therefore be disqualified from the Olympics. However, Pistorius fought back, a group of researchers through Rice University performed another study and concluded that the prosthetic legs were “physiologically similar but mechanically dissimilar” from normal biological legs. At this conclusion, Pistorius was allowed to reenter qualifications for the Olympics. However, debate soon started once again, some people thought that Pistorius was at an advantage because the lightweight Flex-Foot Cheetah allowed Pistorius to swing his leg almost 0.2 seconds faster than the average Olympic runner. However, others argued that the prosthetics were just as much of a disadvantage as they were an advantage.

The author chooses to focus on the debate behind Oscar Pistorius’s running career. She includes lots of details about how the prosthetic legs make Pistorius different from Olympic runners with two biological legs. She includes lots of details about which researchers support which side of the debate which leaves the reader with a lot of room for additional research on the study. However, the author fails to describe how the Flex-Foot Cheetah is different from normal prosthetic legs. The foot and leg was obviously designed specifically for running, so what exactly sets it apart from other prosthetics.

This article poses an interesting addition to my paper, it allows for an example of prosthetics possibly becoming more efficient than the human body. It poses a few questions that would be interesting to include in my essay. Do we want a prosthetic to be more sophisticated than a perfectly functioning human body? And is it fair to question whether an obvious physical disadvantage in everyday society becomes an advantage in athletics? Technology is expanding and allowing scientists to use their knowledge to constantly improve on known information.

Throughout history, we have developed an interesting sort of taboo over asking people about their disabilities directly. When we see a man at the store in a wheelchair, we don’t ask why we just hold the door open. I find it interesting that as soon as a runner proves he has tremendous athletic ability, and he just so happens to have prosthetic legs, we begin to question the “fairness of a situation.” It seems as if researchers are purposefully trying to find the fault in Pistorius’s ability.

Read the article here: Should Oscar Pistorius’s Legs Disqualify Him from the Olympics?


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