Disabled athletes come under fire

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By Desiree Perez

By Desiree Perez

There’s a new controversy brewing over the Beijing Olympic Games, and this one’s got nothing to do with China.

Recently, South African sprinter and double amputee Oscar Pistorius won an appeal that would allow him to compete against able-bodied athletes in the upcoming Olympic Games.

Originally, the 21-year-old athlete was denied eligibility because of a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Apparently, having no legs is a major advantage for sprinters.

The actual argument against Pistorius was that his J-shaped prosthetic legs constituted technology that would give him an unfair advantage. But, according to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which overturned the ban, the association failed to prove any such advantage.

Excluding disabled athletes from any outlet of competitive sports is a form of discrimination. It’s also adding insult to injury – they’ve already lost the function of part of their body, let’s take their hopes and dreams,too.

“It is a battle that has been going on for far too long,” Pistorius said in regards to the success of his appeal. “I think this day is going to go down in history for the equality of disabled people.”

Even if the association could have proved that Pistorius’ particular prosthetics gave him an advantage, the far-reaching ban on any athlete with prosthetics goes too far.

The fact of the matter is this: as technology advances, new regulations must be made to address those changes.

When cars were invented, they weren’t banned because the laws didn’t include anything about motor vehicles.

The same can be said for any new technology that our society has embraced.

Even today, the laws continue to adjust, in order regulate the use of technology like the Internet.

If we can concede to changing the rules for other kinds of technology, it doesn’t make sense that we couldn’t do the same for disabled athletes.

Rather than pass blanket regulations that blindly judge all disabled athletes, it would make more sense to create a new set of guidelines for them to adhere to.

These people are dedicated, and they aspire to the same goals as able-bodied athletes.

It’s a slap in the face to tell them that, because of their disabilities, they have to be content to compete in the Paralympics.

That’s basically saying that the real Olympics are only for “normal” people.

Let’s face it: The Olympics have never been about the common person. Every athlete who has made it to that arena has been extraordinary in some way or another.

That makes it all the more difficult when regulating prosthetic, and other medical technology.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Instead of barring anyone with a prosthetic leg, because the ankle on their prosthetic might have a better range of motion than a human ankle, the association can put a new law on the books regarding range of motion.

The association should have to right to update its regulations based on the new circumstances it’s confronted with. However, the association better be prepared to give the same consideration to able-bodied athlete whose natural abilities exceed those standards, too.

While the fear of granting unfair advantages seems legitimate, the association’s response is over-conservative.

Instead of banning everything that’s new and different, it should be willing to work with the international community in determining new guidelines to deal with the constantly changing world of sports.

Disabled athletes don’t need our pity or sympathy on this issue. Above anything else, they need our solidarity in support of equal rights.

And they deserve the right to compete to the best of their disabilities.

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