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Why the Pistorius story matters

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David Bond | 15:17 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2012


Whenever a big name in sport loses and then criticises the athlete who beat him or her as well as the rules governing the competition, it makes for a great story.

But there are three reasons why the Oscar Pistorius story matters:

Pistorius (left) shakes hands with Oliveira after finishing second to the Brazilian. Photo: Getty

1. He is the poster boy of Paralympic sport.

There are only a very small number of athletes who have such a high profile in an event many people are coming to for the first time. Think Usain Bolt false starting in the World Championships in Daegu last year and you get an idea of how big this story is. For Pistorius to lose is a shock. For the South African to then call into question the fundamentals of the competition is another matter altogether.

2. It gets to the heart of the Paralympics' delicate relationship with technology and classification.

Of course, in able-bodied sport - for want of a better phrase - the competitors come in all shapes and sizes. But when running blades and wheelchairs are brought into play, then the rules governing the various pieces of kit become central to everything. As does classification. It is interesting to hear the International Paralympic Committee talking about reviewing not only its rules for running blades but also tightening up the programme for the 2016 Games in Rio so that athletes like Pistorius, who is a double amputee (T44), does not compete with athletes who are single amputees (T43).

3. Finally, it exposes the tensions between the Olympics and Paralympics.

We would not be talking about the Pistorius row if he had not broken new ground by competing against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics. Some people believe the science of prosthetics is moving so fast that very soon athletes in the Paralympics will be going faster, higher and stronger than their Olympic counterparts. That might seem a bit too Hollywood at this stage but it poses a difficult question for the Paralympic movement, which relies so heavily on its close relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Will athletes like Pistorius in future aspire to test themselves against Olympians? Or will the profile of the Paralympics and the opportunities it offers be too alluring? Will world governing bodies like the IOC or the IAAF, which rules athletics, have to rethink the way they integrate with disabled sport? And should it all be moving towards one Olympic Games?

In losing to emerging star Alan Oliveira, Pistorius may have lost some of his superhuman aura. But it may also turn out to be a seminal moment for the Paralympics.


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  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    The question is now raised asking why Alan Oliviera is not eligible to compete in the Olympics while Pistorius is. It's a farce.

  • Comment number 3.

    I wonder if I am the only one who is totally confused by the classifications. Whenever I watch the Para Olympics the first thing that comes into my head is "what's wrongs with him/her"? I find myself continually trying to understand why one athlete looks completely normal and another clearly has a disability.

    On the plus side, it has brought everything into the gaze of the media and the paraolympic movement can only be stronger for that.

  • Comment number 4.

    Will happen more and more now that Paralympians are getting more (deserved) attention and so rewards are greater. Maybe already puts another barrier ahead of anyone ever competing in the Olympics on an equal footing if they can't agree on things now. Would make the job of making it 'equal' even harder and I doubt Pistorius would have been allowed in the Olympics if he'd had a sniff of actually winning (although it was good to see him there).

    Personally, much as it would be a good thing to have, I can't see how the two events could be combined and Olympians & Paralympians competed against each other fairly. Paralympians with differing degrees of impairment don't even compete against each other as there are so many different classifications.

    It's as different as say men and women competing against each other in any sport that just puts person against person with nothing else contributing. (so excluding equestrian, motorsport and the like).

  • Comment number 5.

    David Bond you're the most miserable and negative "blogger" on this website, if there's a negative side of a story to focus on boy do you love to do it. Team GB have won countless medals and broken many records over the course of the Paralympics so far. And the first article you write is about the controversy from this race rather than anything prior celebrating GB Paralympians' achievements so far.

    Yes this is big news and does open an interesting debate but if this story hadn't have emerged would you have even bothered to write one about the Paralympics at all? I doubt it and to be honest I don't know why I'm posing that question to you at all. It's not as if you ever come on here to answer any of the comments and posts anyway, why bother even having this comments section.

  • Comment number 6.

    Oliveira's blades do look much longer in that photo. Presumably that does increase top speed.

  • Comment number 7.

    Alan oliviera is not eligible to compete in the olympics because his running blades are too long for the iaaf rules.

  • Comment number 8.

    For some reason oliveira is taller than pistorius when running but then on the podium he is much smaller so clearly he has made them longer.

  • Comment number 9.

    And if you want a fact-based and accurate assessment of Pistorius' comments and whether they have merit look up Ross Tucker's article for the Science of Sport. Very interesting and much more worthy of a read than the usual media stirring like the above is.

  • Comment number 10.

    i think pistorius was only eligible in the olympics for the 400m because he ran a quick enough qualifying time. i don't think he was anywhere near quick enough in the 200m and neither is oliveira.

  • Comment number 11.

    not to sound cynical or offended others, but personally I think paralympians should stick to paralympics and able-bodied stick to olympics... after all was that not the purpose of having two olympic categories?

    why should you be allowed to race in an event with the criteria being abled-body?... if thats the case then surely abled-body athletes should be granted to access to compete in paralympics surely right... fair play?

  • Comment number 12.

    "The question is now raised asking why Alan Oliviera is not eligible to compete in the Olympics while Pistorius is. It's a farce."

    I could be wrong, but I believe that the regulations on the blades that allow Pistorious to compete in the Olympics are different to those allowed in the Paralympics. Alan Oliviera would not have been allowed to compete in the Olympics on the blades that he used to beat Pistorious.

    Why are those regulations different? I don't know.

  • Comment number 13.

    Big questions indeed.

    Pistorius comes over as a sore loser, dropping heavy hints about skulduggery and switched blades after whatever checking is done before athletes get on the track. He also shows a complete irony bypass in reprising what look very like the arguments about blades and stride length which were deployed by those who argued against his participation in the Olympics.

    More widely, this upset (and the fiasco on the women's discus competition) cast an uncomfortably sharp light on one of the Paralympics' biggest weakenesses- the distinctly artificial nature of competition in a lot of areas. This starts with the process of placing competitors in complex categories, runs though relational scoring systems which mean that the person who (say) throws a shot furthest or records the best time on the cycle track may not be the winner and ends with the incredibly complex mathematico-physiological calculations which determine the dimensions of the blades a runner is allowed to use. The extra profile and public attention which the Paralympics have undoubtedly achieved this time round may not be completely to the event's advantage.

    At elite level the top Paraplympians do already seek to compete at the Olympics- Pistorius himself is the proof of that, with Sarah Storey very narrowly missing out on selection for cycling and several of the equestrian eventers regularly competing in "mainstream" events. Where that goes in future will be interesting.

  • Comment number 14.

    Think its somewhat ammusing that Pistorious who so often dismissess the view that his blades might give him an advantage over able bodied athletes, is no moaning that someone elses blades are better than his.

    11: Totally agree and Pistorious competing in the olympics rankles when i remember the story of an able bodied person, who got good in a wheel chair helping train his Dad, was refused permission to compete.

  • Comment number 15.

    Pistorious was allowed to compete in the Olympics because he was fast enough and he qualified. He is probably one of the few athletes that is able to do so (I think there is a British Paralympic cyclist who came close to being selected for the British Olympic cycling team, but due to the strength of our cyclists she didn't quite make it).

    Playing Devil's advocate, if he is good enough to compete at the Olympics - why shouldn't he? If (and it's a big if) there's no advantage gained from his blades, then he should be allowed to compete shouldn't he? But he is also a paralympian so of course he should compete in the paralympics.

    Saying able-bodied athletes should be allowed to compete in the Paralympics because Pistorious competes in the Olympics is just silly.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think this is a non-story to be honest.

    Pistorius was gutted after coming second and said something in the heat of the moment. He has apologised for it. End of story.

    If the Paralympics bigwigs want to use the 200m final to look at the classification and guidelines, then that's up to them and is nothing to do with the athletes themselves. Pistorius, along with everybody, knew about Oliveira's longer blades, but there was no blog from the BBC Sports department until Pistorius's outburst.

    If there hadn't been an outburst, there would have been no blog.

    Poor journalism

  • Comment number 17.

    15: its not silly its a big deal. like "14" said, an abled body person who good in using a wheel chair was refused accessed to compete in the paralympics... now you care to tell me if that was a fair ruling?... basically its discriminating a paralympian but its ok to do so against an abled body... come on now

  • Comment number 18.

    sorry about my grammatical error... am dyslexic

  • Comment number 19.

    The rules should be simple and easy to understand. Essentially the blades must only be long enough to replace the amount of leg lost due to amputation (if done before fully grown then a formula should be used).

    What would be cheating is to have blades the in effect increase the leg length and therefore stride length beyond what the athlete would otherwise naturally had without amputation.

    It is very difficult to tell from the photo. Whilst Oliveira's blades are clearly longer that may simply be a function of the amputation being higher up the leg.

  • Comment number 20.

    Unfortunately the Paralympics will always be fundamentally messy and confused because of situations like these. It's impossible to tell whether the success is down to the athlete, the equipment, or that they have fallen into the wrong classification. As a sporting spectacle it can never match the Olympics, which I guess is why it's on Channel 4.

    I think a line has to be drawn on the idea of Paralympians competing in the Olympics too. Right now, running on blades rather than natural legs isn't an advantage, but what happens when it is? Will we get people getting their legs amputated in order to be faster runners? It might sound like bad sci-fi, but in a world where people makes complete fools of themselves tow in money on reality TV, is it really implausible?

  • Comment number 21.

    The reason it's not OK for able-bodied people to compete in the Paralympics when it IS OK for Paralympians to compete in the Olympics is all about the fact that it doesn't represent overcoming any sort of natural disadvantage. Sitting in a wheelchair as a healthy able-bodied person is actually making you less, not more, of a natural athlete, and does not make you Paralympians' equal in the same way running an A-standard Olympic qualifying time when you have no lower legs makes you the equal of Olympians.

    Apparently the difference in those blade lengths (according to a shouty fella on Jeremy Vine's show on Radio 2 earlier) is four inches. It looks like a good bit more than that from that photo but I agree it's impossible to tell for sure.

    As for the argument about Pistorius competing, if running on the current blades actually gave you an advantage over athletes with legs, a) wouldn't he be going faster than everyone else? and b) wouldn't every Paralympic runner be able to do it?

    Until there is evidence to suggest that the blades are what is making the difference, and not Pistorius himself, then I say good luck to him and any other Paralympian who can reach a standard that puts them on a level with able-bodied athletes.

    Surely greater equality between disabled and able-bodied people is something we should be aiming for in every reach of society, and where this equality can be clearly shown on merit, as it can in sport, it is vitally important that disabled people are given the chance to compete against able-bodied people wherever they show they can meet the standard to do so.

  • Comment number 22.

    17. The example you mention is intriguing, I must admit I hadn't come across it. However, I would still say it is a fair ruling. Every event is classified by a disability. If your disability (or if you don't have one) is not covered, then you can't compete in that event. In that example, it does seem though like it wouldn't have made much of a difference.

    Silly might have been a bit strong.

    The debate reminds me a bit about allowing women golfers to compete with men. If the best women can compete with the men, should the be allowed to? Does that mean they're not allowed to compete in women's tournaments any more? Should men then be allowed to compete in women's tournaments? I'd say no. And I'd make the same argument for able-bodied athletes in paralympic events.

  • Comment number 23.

    It seems to me that the issue you're raising here is: could technology completely overcome Oscar's disablity? Indeed, might Oscar even have overcome it now? Is he really disabled?

    But that's farcical. Oscar will always be minus two lower legs, so will always be totally dependent on the vaguaries of technology to - part compensate - for this.

    I have the most expensive digital hearing aids money can buy. They're a vast improvement on the old technologies, yet they do not give me anything like the hearing that you have. Even with my super hearing aids, I am still a severely to profoundly deaf person with partial hearing thanks to my aids.

    When Oscar and I remove our prosthetics at night, the reality of our severe disablities hits home. We constantly worry that our prosthetics will fail - as they frequently do - because then the reality of our severely disabilities and Icarus like existence hits home even harder.

    We shall never be like you, nor shall we ever be able to compete with you as equals.

  • Comment number 24.

    Ban blades completely. Its an engineered lever, a machine. It is superior to a leg, you only need to see all the single amputee long jumpers jumping off their blade and not their leg. They do it because you can load the blade with far more energy than a leg and it releases with more 'spring'. Its an advantage.

    Look at it rationally. We don't give those with dwarfism stilts in the paralympics. And if you have no legs, you have no legs. Compete then with no legs. It you can use technology just take the keys to a car or get on a bike. Its meaningless. Its like taking drugs. It doesn't show what a double amputee can achieve. It shows what an engineer can achieve. Using blades, riding a bike, driving a car, its all the same thing. Its using a machine. It needs to be banned.

  • Comment number 25.

    21. Well written. I agree with pretty much everything you say and you have expressed it far better than I've been able to.

  • Comment number 26.

    "... people getting their legs amputated in order to be faster runners? It might sound like bad sci-fi..."

    Actually it sounds no more far-fetched than the idea that someone might put potentially dangerous chemicals into their bodies just for a short term advantage.

  • Comment number 27.

    Firstly the argument that Oliveira could take longer strides is out the window as he actually took 3 more strides than Pistorious over the race.

    To be honest I can see where Pistorious is coming from. If there where standardised blades for every athlete to use based on their size then that would be much fairer than each athlete having different designs of blades

  • Comment number 28.

    When someone as widley respected as Oscar breaks ranks and voices concerns, I think those in power really ought to listen! His statements about the advantages of increased blade length were made BEFORE the event. The IPC have taken note of his comments, but said that "everything is in keeping with their protocols". But I wonder just how many of the scientists and technicians that decided on those protocols actully use blades to run on? We now have advanced theorists talking of stride pattern and paces per metre etc; etc; The sensible decision would be to actually arrive at the height that an athlete would be had they full limbs (easily doen nowadays by a mathematical equation) and ensure that any athlete does not or cannot go above that height. Or is that just too simplistic?

  • Comment number 29.

    This discussion just illustrates that the concept of much of the paralympics is absurd. There are all sorts of complex rules to ensure "fairness" but competitive sport is fundamentally all about elitism based primarily on physical (and to a lesser extent psychological) attributes. In the paralympics the rules are there to ensure that some, but not all, of the physical attributes are equivalent. Many of these rules are effectively arbitrary and simply serve to limit the number of people that can compete in any one category.

    Perhaps we should introduce this type of categorisation into all Olympic sports in order to give everyone a chance. There are already weight divisions in boxing/judo etc. What about height categories in the high jump and basketball, and lung capacity categories in running, and thigh diameter categories in cycling. Of course not. Then why so many categories for the typical range of impairments in the paralympics?

  • Comment number 30.

    It doesn't matter whether blades as such give an advantage or not compared to legs, the point about equipment of any kind is you should race like with like, and clearly in the paralympics that's problematic. Pistorius should not have raced in the olympics regardless of of whether he's faster or slower then the 'able-bodied'.

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with the blog - the issue with allowing disabled people to compete in non-disabled events is that technology can never be guaranteed to be neutral over time. I realised that when I saw that Pistorius had been allowed into the Olympics - quite simply, when someone witha disability wins, all hell will break loose about the technology.

    However, some here are completely missing the point. The issue is not "Is normal life (away from competition) often difficult when the techology is not available/fails?". The real question is simply:

    "Does the technology confer an advantage for the short time that that person competes against other people?".

    And as for the question of "What's wrong with Person X (he or she doesn't look disabled)?"... well, Channel 4 do a pretty good job of explaining the various categories, and yes some are things like "one side weakness" that are not obvious to the observer. But that said, the point has merit deep down in that there will always be classification questions/errors that will sometimes affect or even determine the outcome of certain events.

    I saw a gold medal won by a swimmer and the commentator said that "she was only re-classified to this event last week". Alarm bells rang in my head - if I were one of the other competitors I wonder how I would feel. Being re-classified into a completely different category immediately prior to an event like the Olympics and then winning gold... that is a recipe for conflict and confusion.

    Bottom line:

    (1) There is still a lot of work to be done on the rules.
    (2) The disabled and the non-disabled should always compete in separate events.

  • Comment number 32.

    Here's where the fun will really begin: When someone with a disability or use of special prosthetics or blades actually WINS an event in the regular Olympics. And that's where both the problem and solution lie: Disabled athletes should NOT be allowed to enter the regular Olympics. That's why the Paralympics was created.

    Finally, if anyone thinks that the use of blades does NOT help a disabled runner to give them an advantage of an able-bodied person, just compare the upper bodies and physique of an able bodied athlete and a disabled athlete. The muscle size of biceps and chest of an able bodied athlete are incredibly more developed and defined than either of the upper bodies of Pistorius or Oliveira. This makes you wonder that their inferior upper body strength is being compensated through the use of blades.

  • Comment number 33.

    The question is Why the Pistorius story matters shoiuld be why the Paralympic matters. I was at the Olympic stadium last and no one was talking about Pistorius when we left, although you could see he was very unhappy. David Weir was absloutely fantastic and put in a Mo Farahesque performance and had 80,000 people on their feet , screaming and shouting for the last lap. That should have been the story of day 4..not Pistorius.

  • Comment number 34.

    Pistorius is therefore saying that Usain Bolt is cheating because his legs are far longer than his opponents and every race and event has to be classified according to the length of your limbs.What a joker. You lost a race you thought you had in the bag. Deal with it !!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    "My blades do not give me an unfair advantage over anyone"
    "Alan's blades give him an unfair advantage over me"

    You can't have it both ways Oscar - either the blades do give an advantage or they don't

    Perhaps the IAAF should now re-visit their approval of his competing in the Olympics and disqualify him for using technology that gives unfair assistance- if they did he would only have himself to blame

  • Comment number 36.

    I was interested by what SwampPuppet said about single amputee jumpers taking off on their prosthetic limb so I researched it. And it's true. Which proves that an advantage can be gained with a prosthesis. This opens up a veritable can of worms...

  • Comment number 37.

    24.At 17:36 3rd Sep 2012, SwampPuppet wrote:

    Ban blades completely. Its an engineered lever, a machine. It is superior to a leg, you only need to see all the single amputee long jumpers jumping off their blade and not their leg. They do it because you can load the blade with far more energy than a leg and it releases with more 'spring'. Its an advantage. Look at it rationally. We don't give those with dwarfism stilts in the paralympics. And if you have no legs, you have no legs. Compete then with no legs.

    Utter rubbish. This would ban most disabled athletes. It would also ban everyone who uses technology, not just paralympic athletes - even Olympic athletes who use hi tec equipment and technological training methods. That would mean banning the whole UK cycling team for a start!

    It would also mean banning deaf people like me from wearing digital hearing aids - which would effectively be a ban on deaf people competing because we could not hear starting signals.

    Oscar isn't using technology for unnatural advantage, he uses blades to replace the halves of his legs he's missing. He has no choice but to use them. What Oscar is rightly complaining about is the use by some other disabled athlete's of blades which act like super springs, which go beyond compensating for lost legs and height and which are used to unnaturally lengthen legs and to unnaturally increase spring, speed and strength. If Oscar's blades were giving unnatural advantages he would have won the Olympics.

  • Comment number 38.

    from elsewhere today ...............

    "The advantage for Oliveira tonight was not his stride length, despite Pistorius' claims. The advantage was stride rate.

    And remember, this is the factor that Peter Weyand concluded gave Oscar Pistorius an enormous advantage over able-bodied runners who simply cannot move their limbs at the same rate, because Pistorius was able to achieve leg repositioning times that no able-bodied runner ever could. That advantage is still in play, except now we have another runner who is benefitting from it, and possibly exploiting it even better than Pistorius. "

  • Comment number 39.

    How about they ban blades altogether and they race in wheelchairs instaed?

  • Comment number 40.

    Yes, it does seem that double leg amputees are faster than single leg amputees. The situation will arrive one day when a promising athlete has to have a leg amputated and with the potential rewards, they might ask for both legs to be amputated. The blades, when fitted should give the athlete their 'original' or computed adult height.

  • Comment number 41.

    Surely the length of the blades can be worked out based on the human wearing them. Technology must be able to say how long their 'human' legs would be and this used as the basis of the blades allowed. Yes, taller runners may end up with longer blades, but Usain bolt is taller than most of his competitors.
    As far as Oscar or any other Paralympians competing in the Olympics, I don't think it was the correct decision. It has now muddied the water and in 10 years or so with technology moving so quickly, the Paralympic athletes could be quicker than able bodied athletes.

  • Comment number 42.

    34.At 19:04 3rd Sep 2012, A_FORCE_ONE wrote:

    Pistorius is therefore saying that Usain Bolt is cheating because his legs are far longer than his opponents and every race and event has to be classified according to the length of your limbs.What a joker. You lost a race you thought you had in the bag. Deal with it !!!!

    No, Oscar is not saying that at all! He is saying that Usain's legs and Oscar's blades are properly proportioned for people of their size. He is saying that Oliveira's blades are not properly proportioned for someone his size.

    Compare films and photos of Oliveira a few months ago with films and photos of him now. His blade length and height have sudddenly shot up because they've been artificially enhanced in a manner which is out of proportion with the rest of him and out of proportion with how he originally was.

  • Comment number 43.

    Someone else mentioned Ross Tucker from Science Of Sport. His articles on Pistorius' eligibility for the Olympics are excellent and factually analyse what is a very complex issue. He is South African by the way and is in the camp that Pistorius should not be eligible to compete in the Olympics and there is a wealth of data to support the view that blades deliver an advantage. The IAAF and CAS cases were a farce and way too simplistic (for example comparing Pistorius' VO2 with able bodied distance runners not sprinters). The whole thing is a mess that just got a whole lot messier.

  • Comment number 44.

    OP merely wants rules that suit him , so he and hardly anyone else can race in the Olympics without adversely affecting participation in the Paralympics

    seems to be more about competing in both than allowing paralympians to be the best they can be at technological limits.

    OP himself could be accused of discrimination

  • Comment number 45.

    While the idea of a paralympian competing in the Olympics sounds nice on paper, it can never be fully proven that the athletes have an equal chance and that the paralympian isn't gaining an advantage from whatever technology they use.

    Therefore it would be unwise for the Olympic organisers to allow a paralympian to compete at the Olympics unless they are banned from using technology that the other competitors are also prohibited from employing.

    The latest Pistorius controversy highlights this.

  • Comment number 46.

    of course pistorius has an advantage over a non-amputated person. Can he tear a calf muscle or snap his achilles in training? No. Therefore the fewer injuries he can sustain mean he has an advantage in training and therefore in performance.

    As for this story, the paralympics is not sport as the classifications, the blades and the boosting mean there is no level playing field. It'd be the same as two football teams playing against each other but one can have 12 players and the other has to have a goalie less than 5 foot tall (or other randomly chosen differential to cause one to have an advantage)

  • Comment number 47.

    46, Give over Jason, having amputated legs is an advantage because you can't pull a calf muscle. That is very one dimensional thinking. I guess by your logic having no head would help with aerodynamics.

  • Comment number 48.

    I guess questions need to be asked again David...? By the way, when will you be replying to the near 400 comments on your blog from 28/7?

  • Comment number 49.

    of course it's an advantage. If an athlete's ability to fulfil his or her athletic potential is proportional to the amount of time and effort in training, then pistorius has an advantage in fulfilling his potential.

    Unlike the normal olympics where the only advantages are biological (being taller) or mental or hard work, the paralympics is a non event as the severity of one's impairment distinguishes ones capabilities less so than in anything truly "competitive".

  • Comment number 50.

    I am totally confused - does this mean usain bolt should be handicapped as he has longer stride than anybody else?

  • Comment number 51.

    Athletes are interviewed straight after competing which skews the interview. They are too full of the event to make much sense and often say things they should not or would not in different circumstances but the media got their story like the vultures they are. Pistorius backtracked on what he said but he does have a case and given his status should be allowed a hearing not into the result of the race but in terms of rules regarding blade length. If they can show that size really does matter then they should change the rules. On another issue I note that anti-doping has been stepped down for Paralympics. It may be difficult to test properly as many if not all the athletes take medication for their condition and separating wheat from chaff i.e illegal substance checking may be very hard to achieve. However, the drug-taking may be rife as a result. That could be what the authorities really fear and not testing avoids opening a real can of worms. Is it better therefore to cherish the spirit of the games which is undeniable and turn a blind eye ? Discuss.

  • Comment number 52.

    I dont understand the Paraolympics and neither do i claim to understand it! Yes i think its brilliant how people can complete (better than i can being an abled bodied person!) and do so well!

    What i struggle to understand that this is a game for disabled people yes? Does that mean if i have problems reading or hearing could i complete? Even though my muscles etc are pretty much ok? Seems strange if that was the case going against someone like OP who has no feet?

    On the subject of the race last night... again to me the blades are alot longer and has got to give an advantage to Olviera?

  • Comment number 53.

    Comment by AndySpur37 - yes classifications are or seem to be confusing. By watching and noting the different classifications you gradually get a feel for it. Where I get confused is over the intellectual impairment classification and how this is determined. I can see why it has been withdrawn in past Paralympics. A number of the competitors in this classification have Aspergers Syndrome which in itself is the subject of much legal debate. Channel 4 have a website devoted to the classifications or similar which Giles Long has compiled.

  • Comment number 54.

    Has anyone thought to actually count the number of strides each of them took? As that was the basis for Pistorious' gripe. You may find the answer surprising.

  • Comment number 55.

    49 Jason "of course it's an advantage. If an athlete's ability to fulfil his or her athletic potential is proportional to the amount of time and effort in training, then pistorius has an advantage in fulfilling his potential."

    This is where you should hold your hands up and say, "that was a stupid comment I made"

    You think having no legs offers an advantage because he now has fewer muscles to pull or ligaments to snap? He can train harder because not so much can go wrong simply because he has less limbs? This is your point of view and you will defend that?

    I can only laugh at your ignorance.

  • Comment number 56.

    When I read of a swimmer complaining bitterly because she has been re-classified and will now probably 'only' win 8 golds instead of the planned 11 then I have to wonder what is going on and how can we trust these people. I have not forgotten the basketball player who later admitted that he could see perfectly well but was told to wear sunglasses and never take them off and his team won a gold medal.
    Sorry but I cannot get into these paraolympics at all.

  • Comment number 57.

    If Pistorius feels that this guy has an advantage, then surely its the same advantage Pistorius has over able bodied athletes.

    What would Pistorius's view be if he just won the able bodied London Olympics 400m in a time of 42 seconds? Would he withdraw because its unfair?

    This guys obviously has more legs missing so it makes sense to give him an extended blade.

    Pistorius should quit whining and accept the fact he lost. He is not bigger than the sport.

  • Comment number 58.

    Surely Pistorius is making the strongest case yet against his own inclusion in the able bodied Olympics?

    As you mention in point 2, the delicate relationship with technology is critical to Paraolympic sport. Any result that Pistorius achieves against able bodied athletes will always be be tainted by the feeling that it was achieved inspite or because of the decisions made by an administrator handing down measurement rules for his blades.

  • Comment number 59.

    I personally think Pistorius's comments are completely out of order and have no merit whatsoever. The simple fact of the matter is, had he ran near the time he ran (albeit a world record) in the semi's, he'd have won the race. My point is, it's not like he was beaten by some completely freak time. He can run faster than he did on the night. Everyone loses sometime (even Ed Moses). Oscar Pistorius, grow up!

  • Comment number 60.

    US National Library of Medicine:

    "About one-quarter of all prosthetic users reported problems with wounds, skin irritation, or pain. "CONCLUSIONS: Although almost all persons living with trauma-related amputations use prosthetic devices, the majority are not satisfied with prosthetic comfort. Phantom pain and residual limb skin problems are also common afflictions in this population."

    Some advantage...

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm loving the paralympics, in spite of not always being entirely clear in my own mind about the classification systems. It seems to me as though the authorities do everything possible to make competition 'fair' but to do so 100% is always going to be elusive I feel.

    Blade runners should run against other blade runners. Michael Johnson was spot on when he said that everyone loves Oscar Pistorius competing in the Olympic 400m but most would not feel the same if he stood a realistic chance of winning it. The Olympics and paralympics have been equally enjoyable for me, but by their nature they need to remain separate events.

    A tangential although linked point: the current Oscar controversy confirms my long held view that equestrian sports should not be included in the Olympics. No offence to the riders, who are clearly skilled and dedicated sports people, and the jumping events are certainly great spectacles. However, not all horses are equal and therein lies the discrepancy. If you're going to allow horses, then why not Formula 1?

  • Comment number 62.

    Argument no1 :- longer blade meant he needed less strides - pistorius took less strides than the Brazilian
    Argument no2 :- a longer blade meant his stride length was longer - pistorius stride length on average was longer
    Argument no 3 :- there was no way the Brazilian could of come back at me like that over the last 100m - Pistorius has been deploying that tactic for years... it works

    personally i think , because we know very little on how the blades aid/disadvantage, that more blade runners and Paralympic coaches should look at the technique of the brazilian . in an able bodied human we expect a high knee lift to drive forward, and the blade runners follow this technique, but his knee lift is relatively low , and although this didn't help him round the bend in a straight line his acceleration and top speed was breathtaking

  • Comment number 63.

    Blades are springs. Like trampolines are essentially springs. The force needed to deform a spring is:

    F = -kx where k is the spring constant and x is the distance the spring is deformed.

    The work energy is calculated:

    W = -kx²

    This means that for a blade twice as long a person can store 4 times as much energy - that's the x² bit of the formula. So longer bladed runner's start-off is very slow, as they charge the blades with energy, just like the first jump on a trampoline is pathetic, but, like on a trampoline, eventually they get increasingly easier leaps which can also be quicker if the runner is moving mostly horizontal.

    Once you have achieved a certain height on a trampoline you no longer need to jump so hard - just a little push is need each time only to overcome the efficiency losses occurring in the springs which store the energy of your jump for you while you change direction from downward to back upward.

    Oscar's blades were "clipped" to ensure he did not have this advantage. Alan's blades are maybe 50% longer giving about 2.25 times as much energy conservation between strides. Alan will necessarily start off slower but once Alan hits his desired top speed all he has left to do is move his legs as fast as is practicably possible.

    Pistorius does not think Alan's blades were illegal - he was just pointing out that they are undoubtedly unfair.

  • Comment number 64.

    @63: Once you have achieved a certain height on a trampoline you no longer need to jump so hard - just a little push is need each time only to overcome the efficiency losses occurring in the springs which store the energy of your jump for you while you change direction from downward to back upward

    with the trampoline surely this is because of gravity , and the weight of the jumper applying the energy ,that when going up and down at a certain point you need less energy to get up again? if he is moving horizontally and not vertically i'm sure other factors will come into play than simply moving his legs as fast as possible

  • Comment number 65.

    It strikes me that the sad thing about Oscar Pistorious's comments is the timing. Alan Oliveira ran with blades approved by the sports governing body. He broke no rules. He ran his socks off and he won a gold medal at the Paralympics, and all we are talking about is Oscar Pistorious's complaint. It's not fair on a guy who has every right to be proud of his achievement and should be enjoying his moment of fame and success. Well done Mr Oliveira, hats off to you !

  • Comment number 66.

    @64 Much Love:

    Basic high school mechanics - projectiles and parabolic curves - the effortless horizontal travel can be seen in this video:

  • Comment number 67.

    Marc O'Brien: pure genius.

  • Comment number 68.

    How long until Paralympians go faster, higher, longer than "able bodied". In fact we are already seeing it in the marathon, where the wheelchair athletes now complete the 26 mile course in a much shorter time (wheelchair 1hr 18 mins vs marathon runner 2hrs 3 mins). I think we need to start limiting the impact of improved technology so it is more about the athlete, less about the machinery!

  • Comment number 69.

    You can clearly see from the photo that despite being quite a bit shorter than Pistorius, Oliveira's both their knee-joints are at the same height.

    Surely this gives Oliveira an unfair advantage? If he is a shorter person, he should be using shorter blades.

  • Comment number 70.

    Most issues have already been raised ie Pistorius has different rules for his blades to meet the rules for the Olympics. He could have had different blades for the Paralympics had he wanted and presumably chose not, no doubt because it would involve different training, but that is his choice. All athletes have to choose how many events to enter and how that will impact their training schedules. Analysis of the race shows that the "less and longer" strides argument doesn't wash. Records are being broken left right and centre on that track and yet the time for the 200m was a bit disappointing. Pistorius has done his cause and the paralympics no favours and I feel for Oliveira who cannot bask in the glory of his performance. All of these athletes have done remarkably well. Classification and rules must be a nightmare to try and even out the handicaps. Petulant outbursts don't help and having given the able bodied organisation a massive issue to deal with Pistorius would have done well to either accept the decisions on the concerns he raised before the race or elected not to compete in the Paralympics.

  • Comment number 71.

    Not sure he was moaning apparently his stride pattern is 4cm longer than Oliveras, Oscar just made himself look like an idiot with sour grapes

  • Comment number 72.

    Oscar is such a sore loser.
    Can he not use the same length of blades that the Brazilian guy does?

  • Comment number 73.

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

  • Comment number 74.

    Has anyone counted the strides of the 2 athletes from 50m to the end.?
    For the first 50meters, the runners are still literally 'getting into their stride'.
    So the longer the blades an athlete has, the more but shorter strides they will take initially, gradually working up to a full stride.
    The benefit of a longer blade are after the first 50m.
    The trade-off with a longer blade is about how much time you lose in the first 50m, taking more, shorter strides.
    The British 'blade-runner' over the weekend, who came through in the 2nd hundred from so far back, is a prime example of a slow-start / fast-finish.

  • Comment number 75.

    @11, 14, 17 and others: Is this just trolling or are you genuinely confused by something very simple??

    Of course a fully-abled athlete could not compete in the Paralympics, they have a huge unfair advantage. The reason that some Paralympians use wheelchairs is the they have severe Cerebral Palsy or a spinal injury therefore they have limited and no use of their lower body, stomach, trunk and back muscles. These muscles are critical for the propulsion needed for wheelchair racing. Therefore, a fully-abled athlete can access these muscles and use it as an advantage.

    I agree that Oscar should not be in the Olympics but if someone like Sarah Storey had made the Olympic team how can you argue she shouldn't be able to, she is at a clear disadvantage with her impairment.

  • Comment number 76.

    By the way if you are going to write an article like this at least get your facts right, Oscar is a T43 not a T44. This basic fact that requires but the most basic reasearch. I agree with some points in the article but it completely loses its standing by getting something this central wrong!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    There is already a category of paraolympians who would win every single event against able bodied competitors and these are the one in the wheelchair marathon where the races are won often 1 hour faster than any able bodied runner---for which reason they are not allowed to compete against two legged runners; although they often race over the same courses.

    I think it's inevitable that technology, and other coaching and conditioning skills, will advance to the point where 'blade' runners, or those using the next iterations of the technology as it develops, will run faster than two legged runners ----but they won't compete in the Olympics against them.

    On the specific issue I think Oscar Pistorius and his circle of coaches, friends or advisors just realised what a mistake the sour grapes were and rowed back as hard as they could as soon as they could. Basically he appears to have chosen to meet the demands of the Olympics for whatever reasons he had for doing that, knowing that, in effect the blades he used needed a a consequence to be that bit 'de-tuned'--- by authorities mindful of the possible consequences sketched above.

  • Comment number 78.

    Pistorius knew longer blades of similar spring k factors will give an advantage but he didn't know much - he was as surprised as the rest of us. But unlike us his heart was invested.

  • Comment number 79.

    It turns out that Pistorius took 92 steps during the race (2.2m per stride), and Oliveira took 98 steps to win gold (2m per stride). So Pistorius had longer strides instead. Watch the race.

  • Comment number 80.

    72. It seems that Pistorius can use blades that are even longer than Oliveira’s. But he chose not to use them. On another report, in Brazil, Oliveira said that it was difficult for him to adapt to longer blades. He was using the same blades since he was 16.

    I wonder if Pistorius did (or did not) try longer blades which would be legal for him. Because he could - maybe - have not adapted to higher blades.

  • Comment number 81.

    What a shame that this row has had to surface during an excellent ParaOlympic Games so far. The thing I find strange is that down the home stretch Oscar Pistorius seemed to lose all momentum and Alan Oliveira was the more fresher of the two. No one is guaranteed a gold for just showing up. You have to earn that gold and when it is all said and down the history books will show that AO won.

  • Comment number 82.

    Luiz, what relevance are the size of the strides? Alan's blades gave him sufficient conservation of forward energy that he needn't lift his legs to achieve a long stride in the end. He just had to move his legs fast enough to keep from falling over under the forward energy of the springs.

  • Comment number 83.

    Totally agree with Blogger 8. Oliveira is taller than Oscar in the race and half a foot shorter on the podium. I do think that having much taller blades is an advantage as you get the longer stride. There should be less margin for maximum and minimum in relation to their body proportions and how they work out the length of the blades. In the regular Olympics you can't wear stilts. They should be set to how tall The athletes would be with 0.5% margin either way. I ole Oscar and he is so gracious so I do not believe that he would not voice these comments unless it is a serious issue. He is so gorgeous too!! I hope that he wins the T44 100 and 400m events.

  • Comment number 84.

    I haven't actually seen the race. (Please keep reading)
    Does Olivera actually accelerate in the home straight or does Pistorius just 'tie-up'.?
    Normally an athlete will not increase their speed in the last 50-100m of a race, the leaders just maintain their speed whilst others slow-down.
    Re. the choice of blades. Pistorius can realistically only train with one set (size) of blade, so he chose the Olympic-legal set.
    The blades he used are deemed 'comparable' to 'real' legs by the IOC.
    The Paralympic Association now need to look seriously at the physics / dynamics of blades and set new standards which prevent paralympians from 'benefitting' from advances in technology and perhaps aligning themselves with the IOC or convincing the IOC to align themselves with the Paralympic Association.
    Respect to Marc OBriens contribution. That wasn't 'basic' stuff at my High School.!!!

  • Comment number 85.

    For the record it is not the ParaOlympics or the Paraolympics or the Parallel Olympics, its the Paralympics it actually has not official tie with the Olympics they are two completely seperate events.

  • Comment number 86.


    If you watch the video on YouTube, T44 200 Final 2012, you'll see how slow Alan's start is on account of the trampoline effect of his blades. He needs lots of very short strides to get going. But his speed in the last 20m is tremendous.

  • Comment number 87.

    Having read this article, forgive me for seemingly being out of tune and outdated with my views. But what ever happened to the principles, reasons and the core ideas behind having olympics for disable bodied people?

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm chuffed to bits that this whole issued has exploded because I want to be talking about all the competitors as athletes and not praising them for having over come their disabilities. More sporting arguments please.

  • Comment number 89.

    @65 - ran his socks off? Really....

  • Comment number 90.

    87. I found the 200 metres final thrilling and I liked Oscar's angry reaction to defeat. He may have seemed a little unsporting but champions are supposed to be unhappy when they lose. The core idea behind having a Paralympics is surely that these athletes are tough, talented competitors who happen to have a disability. Tanni Grey Thompson hated losing just as much as Seb Coe, and that was what drove her to be as great a champion as he was.

  • Comment number 91.

    maybe im being a bit dumb but isn't pistorius basically complaining about the guy being taller than him? does he want everyone competitor to be of equal height?..simplistic i know but......

  • Comment number 92.

    You are correct to say that this is an important story, but this is not a seminal moment, just part of a long process, and many of the comments show how far ahead people with disabilities are in the process and how far many BBC readers/viewers have to go along the same path. The timing of Pistorius' remarks may be unfortunate, as he himself has noted, but the real importance of the debate he has started is not the issue itself, just the public awareness of it.

    The reality for everyone with a disability is that it is a complex situation and it
    becomes more so in any situation where fairness and equality of opportunity are important. Athletes with disabilities may sometimes compensate for them to the point of competing fairly with the non-disabled, but the real problem is that everyone with a disability is unique. The challenge is to develop sports that allow fair competition that includes large numbers of competitors with different disabilities. They will not always look like "normal" competitions and the classification system is more complex. The point is to be fair to competitors and not transparent to BBC viewers, and the lack of awareness of this in the comments is lamentable. We're here, we're different - get used to it, folks. When the dust settles, Pistorius' intervention will raise the profile of this issue, and this is a Good Thing, as some of the comments demonstrate, but the issue is not new and it its something that people with disabilities deal with every day.

    The other issue that your story passes over and only a few competitors have raised is that we are learning that non-disabled competitors are also unique, and when everyone trains and competes in the era of modern science, olympic victory often comes down to the biological advantage of stature, genetics, and on occasion, illicit drugs. Past olympics and world championships have seen a lot of controversy over extrinsic equipment, from East German pioneering designs in bobsled runners, to the redesign of bicycles by the US and other teams in the 1990s. Table tennis and other raquet sports, pole-vaulting, fencing, sailing and almost every other sport in which athletes use personal equipment have rules that limit and standardise the kit to provide a balance between innovation and maintaining stability and fairness in competitions.

    People who suggest that blades should be banned ignore the fundamental fact that they allow people without legs to RUN and run FAST, thereby creating a whole new range of competition options. Science will gradually provide us with evidence to show whether people like Oscar Pistorius compete with one another and/or the non-disabled at an advantage or disadvantage. But the reality is that non-disabled athletes are not equal, either. What is surprising is why this is seen as any different from the regulation of other sports. Every competition tries the competitors, but it also tries the rules. We learn and we make adjustments.

    In elite sport, sometimes decisions have been made to prohibit innovations and others have been made to permit them. All too often the real basis of the decision has had more to do with the bargaining power of sporting associations, and far too often it has not taken account of the value of global, accessible sports. Countries which do well in sports like cycling and sailing are usually the ones who can afford the best equipment and the research and innovation to develop and maintain cutting edge equipment. This is good, because it fuels research and development of better bicycles, and the same is true of artificial limbs. But it also places affluent athletes and developed countries at an advantage. This may be the real story of the Paralympics.

  • Comment number 93.

    why are the rules different for olympics vs. paralympics. if the winner's blades are too long for olympics, this should be standardised. I have sympothy with Oscar as it seems the rules in this occasion can be interpreted in different ways for the paralympics. It is obvious when reviewing the frame by frame footage when the two athletes run next to each other that the longer blades give you a longer stride by basically bounding higher; from the analysis I would have to agree with oscar's view.

  • Comment number 94.

    If the blades had given Pistorius an advantage over able-bodied athletes then he would be banned from entering the Olympics - Im pretty sure of that.
    I have never been comfortable with him being allowed to enter - it feels patronising to me: "sure he can run with us - so long as he doesnt actually win" ...

  • Comment number 95.

    Pictish at 91, Oscar is not complaining about guys beating him because they are taller than him. He's complaining about competitors like Alan suddenly, artificially, and dramatically improving their running speeds solely due to increasing their blade length (and height) by up to 4 inches.

    Whereas Oscar's blades are based on natural body ratios, Alan and a few others have transformed their blades into unnatural super springs which exceed natural body ratios and natural performance levels. Unlike Oscar, Alan will probably win a race in the Olympics once he accustoms to his new super blades and height, but it would be grossly unfair if he were to do so.

    As Oscar rightly recognised, these longer, super spring blades confer unnatural technological and unsporting advantage. The perfomance advantage of the super blades is due to their enhancement of the power, acceleration and speed of Alan and others using them - in the manner so well explained here by Marc O'Brien. Oscar's experience tells him that these longer, super spring blades are no longer the leg replacements that Oscar uses, they're leg and performance enhancements, conferring unfair technological advantage. Oscar and others who use proportionate blades cannot hope to compete with them. These super blades have to be in breach IOC rules, they certainly breach the spirit of the paralympics. Why doesn't Oscar use these super springs? How can he when every step he takes with his standard blades he is under the IOC microscope and when he is constantly - unfairly - challenged for his use of even his more naturally performing blades?

  • Comment number 96.

    Look how Alan struggles to get on to the starting blocks (at 2.5) and has to, quite literally, fall onto the ground in order to accomplish this. Why? Because he's on stilts.

    Compare Oscar's natural bend and easy entry to the blocks. Why? Because his blades are based on natural ratios.

    Compare Oscar natural running style and walking gait with Alan's highly 'stilted', unnatural running and walking style.

    For goodness sake, wake up IOC and recognise what's going on here.

  • Comment number 97.

    i am an ardent sports watcher and love athletics. Regarding the Pistorius story about the length of the blades, to my knowledge no one has mentioned that double amputee runners appear to have an advantage as opposed to a single amputee runner, never mind the length of the blades and this was proved in the 200 mtrs, therefore I believe that the categories should be changed for runners i.e. single amputee and double amputee this would be fairer for all concerned.

  • Comment number 98.

    Surely if paralympians can take part in the Olympics, Olympians should be able to compete in the Paralympics, there is no difference it is messed up.

  • Comment number 99.

    It seems to me that Pistorius wants his cake & eat it. He knows there are rules regarding him, & other disabled atheletes, competing in both the Olympics & Paralympics but wants these rules changed when he loses a race. It would be great if ALL athletes could compete at the same games but this is not going to happen. Many disabled athletes need special prosthetics or certain equipment to allow them to compete & this can give them an edge over able bodied athletes it is unchecked.

    Every one wants a level playing field but it won't work if you compete in both Olympics. Pistorius should decide who wants to compete against & stick to it.

  • Comment number 100.

    The science from actual acknowledged verifiable scientists (yet to hear of marc obrien) explains why there is no tremendous advantage that Alan's blades give him -its about personal ambition, PR, complacency, and failure (and cash) - science is being used as a smoke screen for PR purposes and cash purposes as the value of the investment plummets

    hole, bigger, stop digging


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