Photo: Mike Powell/Getty
Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius will be one of the most inspirational stories of the 2012 Summer Games in London, but some still aren’t sure that the South African runner — who poses no realistic threat of winning a medal — should be allowed to compete.American hero Michael Johnson, who won four gold medals across three different Olympic Games, has said in the nicest way possible that he thinks allowing Pistorius to run is setting a dangerous precedent, as it isn’t definitively known whether or not Pistorius gets an advantage from his mechanical prosthetics.
Pistorius was ruled ineligible from competition in advance of the 2008 Beijing Games, but the ruling was eventually overturned after he appealed the decision. Pistorius didn’t qualify for those Games anyway, but he’ll be in London for the 400-meter sprint this summer.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Johnson believes that although Pistorius is setting a great example for disabled athletes, if it is proved prosthetic limbs give a disabled runner an advantage in the future then allowing him to run will have been a mistake.
“That is hard for a lot of people to take and to understand when you are talking about an athlete and an individual who has a disability…. Oscar sees no limits; he has no fear when competing against able-bodied athletes. So it is hard for people to understand and to accept when you start to talk about whether or not he may have the advantage.”
Johnson then alluded to a hypothetical scenario in which an elite runner suffers an accident, then gains speed with the use of prosthetic limbs. Given the precedent set by Pistorius, that runner would be allowed to compete, and therefore have a huge advantage.
“What happens when we have a Michael Johnson, a 43-second 400-metre runner, who then has a horrific accident and then becomes a disabled athlete and then you put him on blades, these prosthetics, and he is now running 41 seconds?”
Though that’s a big “what if” scenario, Johnson’s concern is valid given that runners have only gotten faster year after year.
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