A Paralympics gold-medallist runs against Olympics contenders and wins, setting off a debate over whether the “disabled” runner has an “advantage.”
The debate surrounding Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius
BBC News, Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Pistorius has won four gold medals at the Paralympics
Oscar Pistorius shocked the athletics world this week when he qualified for the World Championships – but should he be allowed to race against his able-bodied rivals?
The South African double amputee, who competes on carbon fibre legs, clocked a 400m time of 45.07 seconds to qualify for the championships in Daegu next month and also set up a possible Olympic bid.
Pistorius was cleared to compete by the International Association of Athletics Federations in 2008 after a lengthy legal battle but after breaking his personal best by nearly half a second, his new-found speed reopens the debate.
BBC Sport asked Olympic silver medallist Roger Black and British 400m record holder Iwan Thomas for their views.
ROGER BLACK:”Personally I am amazed at the time he ran.
“He was running OK times for the past few years but he was never going to challenge the best in the world, and as long as he was doing that, it was fine.
“But now he is moving into territory which is starting to get interesting.”
Roger Black Olympic silver medallist
“If he gets down to 44.5 seconds then it changes the whole discussion because what nobody knows is whether his blades are an advantage or not.
“No one knows the answer to that question as they have not been around long enough. We don’t know if Oscar is an amazing athlete, or a very good athlete with an advantage.
“What if a kid comes along with the talent of Michael Johnson but has an accident and then runs 41 seconds?
“This is a whole grey area. It is a celebration of human endeavour on his behalf but you will see a lot of 400m runners complaining.
“Emotionally, I would love to see him race but If I had to go one way or the other I would say he shouldn’t be able to race – we are not seeing like against like.
“The faster he runs, the more people are going to say that he has an advantage and we are not on a level playing field.
“I can only imagine how I would feel if I raced against him in the Olympics and he beat me. Now he is a real threat and a real player on the world stage and we will see athletes saying that it is unfair.”
Iwan Thomas British 400m record holder
“I am delighted for Oscar. I tweeted him as soon as I woke up this morning.
“We all know what a quality athlete he is and he has shown just how hard he has worked over the last couple of years and the self belief he has got.
“If you look at the 400m on the world stage this year it’s not that strong so this has put him right up there.
“It gives him a chance of making the final of the World Championships, which would be great for the sport.
“The IAAF have cleared him to run so that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned. People might come out of the woodwork now and argue about it but it is only because he is running the times.
“It shows people that there are no limits.
“There may be kids with a disability who can look at him and see him beating able-bodied athletes. In life you need role models and he gives people hope.
“The boundaries are knocked out of the way – if he can do it, anybody can do it.”
Iwan Thomas and Roger Black were talking to BBC Sport’s Tom Rostance