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Meeting the Blade Runner

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BBC Sport blog editor | 10:55 UK time, Saturday, 27 August 2011

For a man at the centre of the biggest story of these World Championships so far, Oscar Pistorius cuts a discreet and relaxed figure.

Dressed in black tracksuit bottoms and t-shirt, his signature Cheetah blades replaced by gleaming white trainers, he is sitting in a cafe opposite the athletes' village in Daegu, indistinguishable from any other tanned young sportsman whiling away the empty hours pre-competition.

Appearances can be deceptive. While Usain Bolt may appear on more billboards around town, it is the inclusion of multiple Paralympic gold medallist Pistorius on the start-lists that has commanded more column inches.

Thanks to a controversial ruling from the Court for Arbitration in Sport and a massive personal best a few weeks ago, Pistorius will line up in Sunday's 400m heats as the first amputee athlete to ever compete in an athletics World Championships.

To some it is an inspirational tale of courage against adversity, to others a PR-driven story in which science and ethics have taken a back seat to emotion and hype.
To the man himself, it is something far less complicated: a simple desire to run as fast as he can, against the fastest there are.

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"I think I've always regarded myself just as an athlete," he says. "I'm very proud to be a Paralympian, but even Paralympic athletes are athletes just like anyone else.

"I consider myself an athlete, just a 400m specialist. When I line up I'm not going to think how great it is to be here, I'll think about how hard I'll have to work to get to the end in a time I'll be happy with.

"It's not any different from any other race. It's a great honour to be here, and this is one of the top competitions that any athlete will have the pleasure of participating in their career. But I don't run to get to a point where I've decided [appearing at the Worlds] is an accomplishment."

The journey to Daegu has been a long one for the 24-year-old from Pretoria. When he first tried to compete in IAAF events he found himself excluded by a new clause added to the sport's governing body's rule 144.2, which relates to the use of "technical aids" during competition.

Clause (e) prohibited the "use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device."

A study carried out by Professor Peter Brüggemann at the German Sport University in Cologne had indicated that Pistorius's carbon-fibre blades enabled him to run at the same speed as able-bodied sprinters with about 25% less energy expenditure. Pistorius and his coach Ampie Louw disagreed, appealed to CAS and won.

That was three years ago. The battle since then has been against a foe familiar to all track athletes, the clock. At the last Olympics Pistorius was 0.7 seconds off the qualifying time. Even at the start of this year he appeared to be well off the pace.

If his PB in Italy was a clear 0.18 seconds inside the Worlds qualifying mark, it was also a full half a second inside his previous best. As improvements go, it was massive.

"I've noticed a difference in attitude from my fellow competitors, because I think they respect me more," says Pistorius. "I spoke to a friend the other day who's a really well known 400m athlete. He was saying I look like I've lost weight. If anything I get treated just like any of the other guys."

That PB was also just the 18th fastest time in the world this year. On that basis, Pistorius could struggle to get anywhere near Tuesday's 400m final. So, after such a struggle to be allowed even to enter, what would now constitute success?

"There are probably two parts," he says. "One would be making it through the first and second round, trying to make the semi-final, and I think that's a realistic goal.
"The other one would be to gain as much experience as I possibly can for the London Olympics next year. This is a phenomenal chance to go through the same kind of pressure and competition as next year."

Pistorius is not the first Paralympic athlete to compete in world-class able-bodied events. His compatriot Natalie du Toit swam the open-water 10k at the last Olympics, while USA's Marla Runyan, who is legally blind, finished 10th in the 1500m at the 1999 Worlds in Seville.

Ireland's Jason Smyth, the double Paralympic champion who is also visually impaired, lined up in the 100m heats here in Daegu on Saturday evening.

But amputee Du Toit competes without a prosthetic limb, Runyan and Smyth without guides. It is Pistorius's blades which take athletics into unexplored areas, those distinctive "upside-down question-marks", as he describes them, the punctuation in a debate that can get extremely heated.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker accepts that Pistorius is an inspiration to millions. He also thinks the scientific case is closed: Pistorius's carbon-fibre blades give him a significant advantage.

"Biomechanical studies have found that he is able to accelerate his limbs at speeds that are off the biological charts," he told the BBC.

"In sprinting one of the key things is that you have to be able to move your limbs quickly, and Pistorius can do this many, many milliseconds faster than any other athlete in history - even faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m.

"There is such an impenetrable wall of PR support for Pistorius now that for a federation to take him on and say, no, you're not allowed to run, is a PR disaster. They would be accused of discriminating against him just because he's now a success.

"But every single study so far shows the same thing, which is that there is this performance advantage as a result of the energy enhancements and the reduced mass of those limbs."

Saeed Zahedi is a biomechanist who has been at the forefront of prosthetic design for the past three decades.

"Oscar has to have his stump inside a socket, and he has to compensate all the forces around his stump," he told the BBC. "Essentially the sense of fatigue that comes from the act of compensation is a lot higher in Oscar's case than for any ordinary runner."

Richard Whitehead, the Briton who holds the double-amputee world marathon record, agrees. "Wearing prosthetic limbs, you have lactic build-up in other parts of your body. When Oscar finishes he is physically exhausted - in the race when he qualified for the Worlds, he collapsed at the finish because he was so exhausted.

"Athletes, as well as people in general, are inspired by someone doing something positive - and that's what Oscar is. He's been given a gift to participate at the highest level, he wants to push the barriers, and he has a right. As long as he qualifies like everyone else, I don't see why he shouldn't be allowed to compete in Daegu."

Has Pistorius heard any whispers from within the athletes' village?

"No, no, nothing like that. At this level we don't look at our opposition and criticise them when we don't do well. We look at ourselves.

"If you don't run a good race, you can't point fingers and anyone else. I've got a lot of respect for the guys I participate against. They know how hard I train and how much I sacrifice for the sport.

"You'll always have one or two guys that differ, are ill-informed and like controversy. There's nothing I can do about that.

"I'm very confident. There's no way the prosthetic leg can provide any advantage."

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    World gone mad. Nothing against the guy at all, but he just should not be running in these championships. The question of whether he gains an advantage or not, is beside the point, I just dont think you should be able to add any equipment to your body, except for standard track kit.

  • Comment number 2.

    The simple fact is you're no longer comparing apples with apples, and that defeats the entire purpose of sport.

  • Comment number 3.

    Lets be clear. He has an advantage. The science is unequivocal. Pistorius himself quoted the original findings by Weyand and Bundle when they appeared to support the CAS appeal and has been quiet about the change since the full findings were published. The real questions are whether Weyand and Bundle were prevented from publishing the full findings until 2 years after the CAS case due to undue pressure or inappropriate content in the original research contract and, if so, who was responsible for such conditions. This is more about the integrity of the IAAF, CAS and science than about Oscar Pistorius.

  • Comment number 4.

    Just thought it was important to make a few points.

    Fisrtly id like to say how saddened by the above comments about Oscar "adding" equipment to his body. He is a double amputee it's not as if he chose to run with blades. Add this to the fact he has been attempting to run a qualifying time for a major athletics competition since before Beijing Just shows how hard he has had to work to reach the standard of able bodied athletes. Surley if the blades gave him an advantage he would have reached the qualifying standards long before now.

    Secondly Pistorius dominates in most races of his category at the Paralympics but just like every other athlete he wants to push himself further than his known limits which requires stronger competition, hence his bid to compete I Daegu. And as he has clocked the qualifying time why should any one criticise his exploits, as he said he is "just another athlete " wanting to see how fast they can go.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tanni Grey-Thompston right, though, if he takes part in the Olympics, it demeans the Paralympics - http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/athletics/14692877.stm

  • Comment number 6.

    I can't spell - that should be Thompson!

  • Comment number 7.

    Didn't hear Dame Tanni commenting when Partyka and du Toit competed. Could it be just because it's athletics now?! She has gone down massively in my opinion now with these comments. As Triboy24 wrote if it was so easy with blades where are all the others running 45 sec times? Let the man fly!

  • Comment number 8.

    There is no such thing as comparing "apples with apples" here. Many athletes have "advantages", why do you think certain builds and races dominate different kinds of events. No one complains about Usain Bold having an unfair advantage because his legs are so much longer than any of the other athletes.

  • Comment number 9.

    Yes, the blades constitute an advantage over the equivalent limbs (let's say, calf, ankle, foot...) but it is also mentioned that there is lactic build-up elsewhere due to the body compensating for lack of said limbs. To what degree this balances itself out in terms of overall performance advantage will probably be debated for a long time.

    However he has exceeded himself against fellow Paralympians and now has the opportunity to test himself against the world's best... and he himself has earned it. It simply is not fair tio deny hime that opportunity now.

  • Comment number 10.

    Of course there is an issue with comparing like for like. Sport, particularly Olympic sport, should be about finding the very best NATURAL competitor. That's why we have such an issue with steroids, because we want sport to be clean and down to simple genetics. We want athletes to represent the pinnacle of human achievement, to be superhuman, not human + two bits of carbon fibre. I have nothing against the guy, and he is clearly a remarkable and inspirational individual, but in the interest of fair competition I just don't believe he should be competing in regular events.

  • Comment number 11.

    It only starting to become an issue now he is starting to become a threat he is close to breaking 45 seconds and if he starts getting into finals or even winning medals then it is going to become a big issue. As for TGT I think she should have more confidence in her product.

  • Comment number 12.

    No. 10
    Can't let this one go. Simple genetics? Lets get rid of running shoes then. Oh, hang one, they're sponsored. All athletes make use of technology. Hopefully, but not always, within the rules. You try running without the use of your calf muscles.

  • Comment number 13.

    It's crazy that they are allowing him to compete. It's not Pistorius himself generating his speed but himself with artificial aids.

  • Comment number 14.

    12.

    Sure, ban running shoes. FINA banned the super slippery swimsuit because they felt it was giving too much of an advantage to athletes. However, 8 men wearing the same type of performance enchancing running shoe is still even competition, and fundamentally different to 7 "natural" athletes versus one guy with carbon fibre blades. There is simply no way to argue that it is even, it just isn't.

  • Comment number 15.

    The thing that baffles me is how he knocked 0.5 seconds off his time in just a few weeks.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think they have reached a reasonable position- this is a fairly simple case-he has achieved the qualifying time, he gets an advantage from the lightness of his legs, and a bigger disadvantage from not having the original legs developed by billions of years of evolution. Most winners have some genetic advantages- we just don't know they work.

  • Comment number 18.

    Surely people like this are the reason for the Paralympics and similar events. I have sympathy for his condition, but being able to design and improve his 'legs' is an obvious advantage.

  • Comment number 19.

    If his blades give him such an advantage then where are all the other double amputees qualifying to compete against able bodied atheletes? Also, if his blades are such an advantage then why aren't able bodied people having their legs removed to get a set? Until able bodied people would swap with him then he has every right to compete against them.

  • Comment number 20.

    As a biochemist with extesive background in genetics, I have a big problem scientifically distinguishing 'natural' from 'artificial'. 'Natural' is a cultural construct. It makes even banning drugs on scientific grounds problematic - plenty of narcotics are 'naturally' available foodstuffs. Conversely cereal staples are cultivated mutants with 'unnatural' triploid genomes!
    We choose what we allow in sport based on culturally-agreed definitions that are fluid. What about athletes who break a bone or suffer some injury that requires use of technology to correctly repair. Is this an 'unfair', unnatural advantage?
    My personal feeling is that, as said by frosed above, if other athletes want to cut their legs off then they're welcome! Meanwhile all power to Pistorius for redefining the boundaries of physical disability and what constitutes the human body.

  • Comment number 21.

    Wow. There are some bigoted comments coming from BBC users. I don't want to be mean, but its very true what I have just said. How people can say Pitorius has an unfair advantage I will never know. I know the implication, but then people forget that they have never been a double amputee themselves, and forget that there is an emotional difference in the character of the person.
    Pistorius is not cheating, he is doing what he can. He wants to be the best, and I hope to all you cynics that one day he is.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well, firstly I have to agree with #21 elchupe1 - there are sme very bigotted and also misinformed comments on this blog.

    The true science of the blades basically results in an equilibrium against able-bodied runners. On the blocks, able-bodied athletes use their highly developed calf muscles to push from the blocks - Oscar doesnt't have any and has to use his hip region which is far more difficult to develop and as evolution has shown, is neither as quick or as powerful as the calf muscles.

    Also, when taking the bends, the blades are not as flexible as an able-bodied leg (ie. it can't minutely shift and bend to the same degree a human leg can) and therefore loses a small amount of time.

    This is off-set by the fact that once up to speed, he does expend slightly less energy overall than an able-bodied runner, so in the end, the overall effect is that he has neither an advantage or a disadvantage when he races - which in the end is why he is allowed to compete.

    As for examples of equipment or in his case his "blades" giving an advantage, I put this to you: do you think every cycle racer at the Olympics etc or every basketball paralympian has exactly the same equipment? Of course they don't. Some teams and countries have more money than others to spend on R & D for such equipment and as long as it is equipment that is within the accepted guidelines laid down byb the sports governing body, using technology or whatever equipment is allowed to it's best advantage is all part and parcel of any sport: swimming, running, cycling, canoeing, skating - the list goes on and on.

    The fact that Oscar uses "Blades" instead of his amputated lower legs is testament to the human being himself. He wants to compete at the the highest level of his sport within the rules and that is exactly what he is doing and he should be applauded not derided for it.

    His attitude (and that of his team and his supporters) is one which the rest of us should take inspiration from - the reach for a higher goal and a wanting to better oneself, whether you are an olympian or a baker, it matters not.

    I shall be watching Oscars first heat today not only with excitement but with pride as a human being.

  • Comment number 23.

    We inordinately concentrate on the advantage that the prosthetic offers. How about the mental, psychological and physical handicaps that this paralympian has had to overcome.
    If his reflex speed is faster than that of most athletes, I will count it as a fair advantage so long as it cannot be established beyond all reasonable doubt that it is solely attributable to the prosthesis and not even partly down to the compensatory advantage that a hard working, highly motivated handicapped athlete can create for himself through sheer dint of staggering effort.

    The able-bodied have no case to be apprehensive of a defeat by an athlete so physically challenged as Pistorius.

  • Comment number 24.

    I agree this is a difficult one, and I can see both arguments. However, I think that because any biomechanical advantages are counterbalanced by disadvantages he has, that it is a good balanced judgement that Oscar Pistorius be allowed to run. If it was a case that generally athletes with such prosthetics were able to run much faster with prosthetics, than athletes without them, then of course it would have to be reconsidered. So I think this needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis. If it was the case that technology was such, that it started to give athletes with prosthetics a clear advantage, then it would have to be re-considered.

  • Comment number 25.

    @21 That's essentially the problem...what happens if he does become the best Would they let him run if he was recording world record times - absolutely not. What happens if some guy comes along and using the same blades starts recording world record times?...where would Oscar stand then? They would have to ban them completely. It has the potential to turn into a farce.

    In fact, it's only because he's not beating everyone that he's allowed to run.

    It's not about being cynical, it's about the implications that this could have on the sport

  • Comment number 26.

    21: He's obviously not cheating as the governing body are granting him permission. I'm also not bothered if the blades are somehow giving him an unfair advantage over others. What I'm bothered about is the fact that it is the blades that allow him to run so fast. There's no question about this. If they weren't then why doesn't he use some lower tech version? Now I know people will say I'm an uncaring la di da but it is the technology that is allowing him to do hence in my personal opinion is it's not solely his performance doing these times.

    But yes I suppose everyone could start cutting their legs off and getting the blades.

  • Comment number 27.

    Would this not clear things up?..

    Cheetah, who make the blades, have previously attached them to a normal pair of boots which an able-bodied person could wear as a fun experiment, but if they can do this, then we should use this to compare the times of running 400m whilst wearing them and then when not wearing them? the only advantage they would provide with doing this (if there was no other advantages) is that they would provide a longer stride distance, so in order to combat this; you take the increased distance in stride that they give and add it onto 400m......so to explain, say the blades would give you an extra 50cm length in your stride, and you normally run the 400m in 300 strides, then you add an extra 150m when running with the blades to accomodate the extra stride length they provide, so in total you run 550m. Then you can compare the times of the 400m run with no blades, and the 550m run with the blades on?

    Could someone tell me how this would not solve the problem and clear this whole debate up? The only problem i see is calculating the stride difference accurately, but i'm sure modern technology could give us an answer!

  • Comment number 28.

    tonyd, I'm sure that they've done all of the relevant tests so that they "know" what the blade performance is. The issue is that they are still an aid.
    I have two flat feet, but would beat Oscar in a straight race if he didn't wear his blades. This is the advantage that he has. He should be competing with the body that he has, without add-ons. He's a great athlete for sure, but a paralympian.

  • Comment number 29.

    i am neutral here, but to those who are saying that no one else on blades is running this fast so it must be oscar and not the blades let me just make this point:

    1. The blades he wears currently only came into the sport in the year 2000, so there is only 11 yrs of comparing him with other athletes that we can look at (not a very long time)

    2.He was amputated on both legs before he could walk, this is an advantage over someone who could walk and then had to be amputated as it is extremely hard to “relearn” the motor control patterns that would be needed to run and sprint again on these blades well enough (further lowering the amount of comparable competitors to him)

    3.He comes from a pretty wealthy background, these blades cost around £16,000 each i am informed, not every athlete can afford this (so again putting him in a minority)

    4. His amputation is below the knee on BOTH legs, this is an advantage over a one leg amputee as the rythm of running is not disturbed as the leg without the blade has to be shorter than the one with it in order to run with these

    So, needless to say, Pistorius received all of these essential last 3 requirements. And while his achievement is no less remarkable, he finds himself in the ONLY possible situation to be able to run well – it is a very small percentage of people who fall in this category to begin with, and falling into these requirements make him fall into an even smaller percentage.

    Once again i am neutral on this issue, i just wanted to clear this point up that people keep making.

  • Comment number 30.

    So he suddenly knocks 0.5s off his personal best and qualifies for the World Championships. What does he do next? He takes a month off.
    Every other athlete has been working hard to fine tune their techniques of the big meet, and Mr Pistorius takes a month off.

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with the idea that this needs to be done on a case-by-case basis. Obviously there are a number of factors working in each direction, and the science is not yet entirely settled on this. I am glad we are seeing Pistorius here - at a minimum, as a symbolic gesture backed up in substance by the fact he is running competitive times. Would rather not see him in the Olympics, but that's solely because of the existence of the Paralympics.

    For the reasons stated by tonyd above (#29), I don't see many comparable cases coming through. If and when they do, they need to be treated carefully.

  • Comment number 32.

    If you have ever seen him compete you'll see that the blades actually give him a significant disadvantage over the first stage of the race as he struggles to get them moving predominantly using his upper body as he doesn't have the lower leg muscles that are so pivotal to an explosive start, he then comes back into the race over the final 200m because he has an immense amount of stamina and an excellent top speed.

    Whether the blades give him an advantage is inconclusive and until (if ever) they are shown to give him an advantage he should be able to compete with able bodied athlete's (in my opinion). Personally I think it is impossible to calculate whether or not they give him an advantage as there is no genetic clone knocking about with full legs to compare him too.

    #30 the 0.5 seconds he has taken of his PB is purely down to weight loss over the last year or so, as every commentator has noticed his increased work load and training schedule (since being permitted to run with able bodied athletes) has made him lean down and become a better athlete so he can be competitive.

    Personally I say let him race his clearly capable and at least he's not pumping his body full of growth hormones to get there!

  • Comment number 33.

    I have seen a lot of comments on this blog asserting that the advantages gained from the blades are offset by other disadvantages due to Pistorius' condition. I have also seen many comments referring to those who oppose Pistorius taking part as bigots. Regrettably it seems that political correctness has infected this blog. The scientific evidence for the advantage of the blades is established, including the final analysis of the data from the tests originally commissioned for the 2008 hearings. I have seen no scientific evidence to support the assertion that this advantage is somehow balanced by other disadvantages. Whilst I may believe that Pistorius does suffer some counterbalancing disadvantages the requirement for him to take part, at minimum, should be scientific studies demonstrating not only that these disadvantages exist but also that their quantum is similar to the advantage from the blades. I am not a bigot and anyone who cares can look at my previous blog contributions arguing for Castor Semanya to be allowed to run simply because the IAAF had not provided any evidence against her participation. The rules are meant to be the rules, and evidence is required to support a position - not just assertions, either from bloggers or the IAAF.

  • Comment number 34.

    To the best of my knowledge Pistorius is a clean athlete & so I would sooner him be allowed to compete than Lashawn Merritt who has just returned after completing a performance enhancing drug ban.

    I think it's great that someone with such a disability is able to perform at such a level - acts as inspiration to people with all sorts of problems.

  • Comment number 35.

    Interesting point from haventaclue52. These splits got used as the argument *against* Pistorius running with able-bodied athletes (i.e. in favour of him having an advantage) in some technical analysis I was just reading.

    It strikes me that the blades provide both advantages and disadvantages. The latter primarily affect his initial acceleration, the former primarily improve his speed endurance. That creates an impossible situation for the relevant arbitrators, because there is an advantage, but they are only used because of an intrinsic disadvantage. And if it is speed endurance that is relevant, then who's to say that Pistorius might actually be better - dominant, even - over 800m? Would that change the picture?

    Absolute can of worms.

  • Comment number 36.

    To the people arguing this is an example of humanity overcoming nature and should be applauded, I get your point, I really do, and I think it is amazing that mankind has got to the stage where a double amuptee can run 400 metres around as fast as the able bodied, however that is not the purpose of sport. If it were steroids would be legal.

    "Fair" is not a mathematical equation, decided by comparing advantages and disadvantages and arbitrarily deciding where everything is equal. Would we be ok with a boxer with an artificial hand inside his glove? What if Manchester United came out and said "you can have a goal headstart but have to play with ten men"? What if, in the future, somebody designs lighter, stonger blades? Would we be ok with him changing?

    In my opinion the purpose of sport is to get the very best in the world in equal competition to find out who is best. Taking away all sympathy and sentiment from the argument I simply cannot accept that Pistorius is on an equal par with everybody else and this completely defeats the purpose of competition. I am not knocking him as a person, as I said earlier, he is clearly a remarkable and inspirational individual, and his attitude and determination to be the best is admirable, but I cannot reconcile that with my belief that sport should be even, fair competition.

  • Comment number 37.

    He shouldn't be competing as it makes a mockery of the sport. He may or may not have an advantage, but say he has and he won the competition and managed to set a world record, all the able body atheles might as well give up. We also need to realise that technology doesn't stand still and that next year the blades will have been developed a bit more so that sooner or later he will be able to beat everyone.

  • Comment number 38.

    #37 "We also need to realise that technology doesn't stand still and that next year the blades will have been developed a bit more so that sooner or later he will be able to beat everyone."

    On this point you are wrong, it has been discussed by numerous journalists and television presenters that his blade design is fixed and has been since he started competing. since the consultation period began he is not permitted to compete without sanctioned blades and any change i.e to make them more springy or lighter would be rejected by the IAAF as they would have to start the scientific research all of again.

    His blades have been designed so that they are as close to real limbs as possible without giving him an advantage (as far as can be scientifically proven).

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion and until I had seen him run I was anti him competing with able bodied athletes but I have seen him run a few times now and I'm sure he gets no overall advantage from the blades.

    #35 I'm not sure it would work over longer distances as he uses 200% of the upper body strength usually required to keep his lower body moving - I think if you doubled the distance eventually he would just run out of gas (so to speak)

  • Comment number 39.

    #38 "he uses 200% of the upper body strength usually required to keep his lower body moving"

    were have you got this from? this is not true, in order to get out of the blocks he will require more upper body activity to promote acceleration, but once up to speed the vast movements required to move will be done in his hip and knee and the upper body would have little to do with how fast or slow he goes

    overall he will require less energy to run 400m than an able-bodied athlete, one because he has no calf muscles, and two because the blades are much more efficient and transferring the forward momentum when running without losing energy, the ankle and foot however act as a shock absorber and absorb most of the forward momentum when running - approximatly 70% infact

  • Comment number 40.

    #39 your upper body is very important whilst sprinting - fluid movement of the arms influences the lower body movemen - most coaches will spend an awful lot of time focussing on this part of your running technique.

    Perhaps I have not articulated my statement very well but I am only talking about energy expended moving his upper body not overall energy usage - which if it was proven to be less I'm sure he wouldn't be allowed to run by the IAAF.

    As for the figure I believe it was Iwan Thomas who quoted it whilst they were commentating on the heats for the 400m this morning - whilst not the most scientific of sources I'm sure he and his fellow commentator had at least done some research.

  • Comment number 41.

    #40 ahh i understand what you meant now, my apologies i did think you meant 200% more energy in total.

    Yes i agree that the IAAF would not allow him to run if it was proven that he has an advantage, it's the only thing that stops me from thinking that he indeed does have an advantage as for me, being a sports science student, i can only see the possible advantages that the blades give him - being less momentum lost when running therefore requiring less energy, less limb mass (approx 6kg) so again less energy required to move the leg (you try running with 6Kg on either leg) and no lactic acid build up in the calf so technique in the ankle region in the final 100m is not an issue (the calf tends to cramp up and lock the ankle in planterflexion)

    however i must trust the IAAF and there investigations and that the blades do infact provide no advantage, however i would still like to see the results of the experiment i mentioned in my previous post

  • Comment number 42.

    #41; either you are remarkably naive about the IAAF or you are unfamiliar with the saga of the research conducted by Weyand and Bundle on behalf of the authorities. Pistorius was ruled eligible to compete on the basis of initial findings of this study. When the full analysis was conducted it demonstrated a clear advantage from the blades but Weyand and Bundle were prevented from publishing the full research until a year after the CAS hearing. They unambiguously found, in the completed research, that an advantage occurred. The IAAF are aware of this development but failed to reopen the eligibility finding in the light of the new evidence. This does not seem a reasonable basis on which to trust the integrity of the IAAF.

  • Comment number 43.

    #41 i must say i am not a die-hard athletics fan and have only read a few articles on this topic which got me interested in it, therefore it is probably my error for getting involved in a debate i am slightly ignorant to; i have never heard about the research conducted by Weyand and Bundle before and if what you say is correct then i think it would change my opinion completely on this matter, taking nothing away from Oscar as an athlete, what he has achieved is incredible and inspirational but competition should be fair, and if the blades give him an advantage, he shouldn't be competing with other disadvantaged athletes, you wouldn't let a football team play with 12 men against one with 11, it's just unfair no matter how big or small the advantage is.....i will look into the Weyand and Bundle research

  • Comment number 44.

    He's a talented athlete who's worked real hard to get to where he is... Is his running in the 400m going to affect your life in a negative way? No. So let him race - without advantages - and fulfill his dreams.

  • Comment number 45.

    #44 "without advantages"

    This is the key issue, if he does have an advantage, which some experts are saying he does, then is it fair for other athletes who have also worked really hard to get to were they are denied an olympic gold medal due to someone who is using technology that gives them an unfair advantage? the answer should be, no.

  • Comment number 46.

    If you are interested then the papers etc. are linked from the Wikipedia article on Pistorius. I had a read of them a while ago and it seems there is pretty much no doubt that once up to speed he has a big advantage for reasons that are explained there (less limb weight; passive rather than active drive from the lower leg).

    His appeal was successful because the key study (Brüggemann et al) didn't take into account the disadvantage off the starting block.

    I don't think he should be allowed to compete until the science is done properly and it's clear how important the factors are. Once that is done the blades can be modified to get a level playing field and he should be rightly be able to compete.

    It's no use saying "there's and advantages and disadvantages so that’s ok". They don't necessarily cancel out! What happens when a double amputee long distance runner turns up and the efficiency advantage scales hugely?

  • Comment number 47.

    Based on the wording of the rule, if a sprinter wanted to compete barefoot, then all his competitors using spikes should be disqualified - since spikes are an artificial aid. Not to mention the number of athletes using steroids.

    The tone of the negative comments seem to be from joggers implying that anyone without legs could simply strap on blades and be a world champion. I would like to hear from a world-class athletes, none of whom have made any public statement commenting on this subject. The human body was designed to have legs not blades.

    I think Pistorius is inspiring with or without blades - It's incredibly difficult it is to get to the semi-finals of the world 100m sprint and any athlete that does it deserves recognition.

  • Comment number 48.

    The disabled have been disadvantaged for as long as they've had the disability - in some cases their whole lives. It's about time that someone like Pistorius represented the spirit of the disabled in the world.

    I find it quite ridiculous that athletics fans are so worried and panicky about a guy with no legs winning major 400m races. The whole world was cheated for decades for example in the Olympics, during the 1970s and 80's ,when countless Eastern European athletes were simply products of drug-treatment.

    So, the real freak show was created when when governments decided to play with the Olympics as a "political gesture" and even more when the Olympics was professionalised. Have no doubt that drug taking still continues, the rewards in terms of sponsorship are too great for some to resist.

    Would I feel sorry for the current 400m world champion if he was beaten by Pistorius - absolutely not - I think it would be a public humiliation for someone who was banned for 2 years for taking drugs and a great boost to the human ability to overcome massive adversity. That's the true spirit of sport. I would cheer from the stands and throw confetti.

    I hope the blades DO give Pistorius an advantage in reality, to inspire every young disabled boy and girl that they can not only compete in the able bodied world, but win. The disabled need absolutely every advantage they can get.

    I would definitely contribute to a fund to improve blade technology further. Just tell me where to send the cheque.

  • Comment number 49.

    'I hope the blades DO give Pistorius an advantage in reality, to inspire every young disabled boy and girl that they can not only compete in the able bodied world, but win. The disabled need absolutely every advantage they can get.

    I would definitely contribute to a fund to improve blade technology further. Just tell me where to send the cheque.'

    Dear me. That just sums it up. When it comes to stuff like sport in the vast majority of instances disabled people (depending upon a number of factors sport, disability etc) cannot compete with able bodied people. Now you want to give them an unfair advantage over others as well as the advantage of being able to use technology to help them race etc?! Our society needs to be all encompassing and not segregate but there comes a point where you have to say I'm sorry there are limits.

  • Comment number 50.

    When scientists improve the performance of able bodied athletes by injecting them with drugs, both the scientists and the athletes are criticised. But when scientists improve Mr Pistorius' performance by strapping springy stilts onto his legs, both are celebrated. Shouldn't the IAAF adopt a more consistent approach?

 

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