Or one of the fastest, anyway. South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious has proven dominant in paralympic competition, but next weekend he’ll be facing the able-bodied likes of reigning world champion Jeremy Wariner in the 400 meters of the Sheffield’s Norwich Union British Grand Prix.
“I’m not a guenia pig,” Pistorius tells the Guardian’s Andy Bull. “My job is to win races.”
Is it possible for a double amputee to compete with, and beat, the world’s best able-bodied athletes? Do the carbon-fibre running blades (known as Cheetahs) that he runs on constitute an unfair advantage? Do they only enable him to attain the levels of performance that his body would be capable of anyway? Or do they take him beyond what his own natural limits would be?”There is absolutely no reason why the IAAF shouldn’t let me run,” he begins. Many disagree with him, claiming that the design of the Cheetahs gives him an unnaturally long stride, and count as artificial enhancement. “I can understand the negativity, but I should be judged on an innocent until proven guilty basis. Right now the leading experts and scientists in the world have said that I should be allowed to run. If they find evidence against me I’d be prepared to stop running. The debate has been resolved. It’s old news.”
He says the key point is that the Cheetahs do not create more energy than the wearer puts in. They are vastly more inefficient than a human leg. But they may not be by the time of, say. the 2012 Olympics.
Pistorius has had 20 years to get used to both his talent and prosthetic limbs. It may be old news for him, but it’s not for the rest of the world. The potential that (and it should be stressed that Pistorius is a long way off this mark) a double amputee could become world champion just raises too many issues.