Nice to see some lively discussion going on here about the CAS decision to allow Oscar Pistorius the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics (though a reminder, people - talking about the issues is one thing, calling people names won't be tolerated by the SI/FanNation staff and offensive comments will be deleted faster than Pistorius hopes to run the 400 meters, so keep it clean and focused on the issues. Thanks.).
Now on to the follow-up. Yesterday, the New York Times' George Vescey devoted his "Sports of the Times" column to Pistorius and the hand-wringing on all sides of this issue - does he have an advantage with carbon fiber blades? Is it unfair? Are people who don't support Pistorius being unfair to the rights of athletes with disabilities? What does this mean for the future of the able-bodied Olympics?
Here's the article:
A quote that stood out for me as I read through the piece: "While I still have doubts about the implications of these springy lower limbs — both in magnifying speed and affecting other runners — I find myself applauding the narrow one-case judgment of the court.
It feels better to be on the side of hope and opportunity — particularly since the three-person arbitration team backed it up, unanimously."
My own gut reaction to the decision was a positive one: an athlete like Pistorius, who as everyone who follows his story knows by now was born without fibulas, is simply an extraordinary human being, no matter whether he ever races in the Olympics or not. What he's achieved is stunning, and his hopes to keep pushing himself by putting himself into faster and faster races is the same instinct every other athlete who has ever been great has had. When you've won everything you can at one level, you want to find the next level at which to compete. For Pistorius, the level he would need to be included in for that to happen is unprecedented (which is what I think is behind a lot of the hand-wringing). We just have never seen a Paralympic athlete before who wanted to be included in able-bodied races when it counts - and who had the talent to do it. The legal issues - does he have an unfair advantage? Isn't sport all about a level playing field, as Vescey says in his commentary? - have to be sorted out, and for now, the CAS decided the law had to side with the athlete until solid proof exists that his artificial limbs somehow give him an overt advantage over an athlete running on natural limbs. No doubt there will be much more legal back-and-forth on this one, and a lot more in the way of scientific studies as well.
Pistorius has already said that realistically, he probably can't reach the Olympic qualifying standard in time for Beijing, so there will be much time between now and London 2012 to think about whether his blades qualify as illegal assistance or whether we should all just take a moment, sit back, marvel at the guy for his persistence, guts and class, and cheer him on.