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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pistorius and CAS: Incentive clash

How much does it cost to buy a scientific opinion? Science for sale?

Last week, in Lausanne, at the Court of Arbitration hearing into the legality of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius' high-tech carbon fibre blades, Professor Hugh Herr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), provided scientific evidence to support the Pistorius defence claim that:

"There was absolutely no basis to conclude that Oscar has any advantage at all over able-bodied runners."
Not only does this statement disagree with IAAF test results on the blades (where 30% advantages were found for some variables), but based on Herr's testimony and the evidence gathered, Pistorius is appealing to legalize the use of the carbon-fibre Cheetahs for competition. The IAAF, the governing body for the sport, are adamant that the technology (not the person, take note) should be banned, because it introduces engineering innovation and future technology that affects the credibility of the sport. It is therefore a statement to take note of. So who is Professor Hugh Herr?

Well, consider that two weeks ago, the self-same Professor Hugh Herr was quoted in an excellent article by ESPN which said the following:
A bilateral amputee professor named Hugh Herr works here (at MIT). If anyone can predict what sports will look like in 2050, it's Herr, who lost his legs 26 years ago in a climbing accident. Herr wears robotic limbs with motorized ankles and insists he doesn't want his human legs back because soon they'll be archaic. "People have always thought the human body is the ideal," he says. "It's not."
Next, consider the fact that when he's not delivering conflicting scientific testimonies, Hugh Herr is a co-developer of Ossur prosthetic limbs, and a collaborator, contracted expert and speaker for Ossur at their various functions. Ossur, incidentally, are the company who make the high-tech carbon fibre blades Pistorius uses to run - they stand to make millions in commercial exposure if he can run in Beijing, and have even previously pressured the IAAF to allow him to participate.

These are the same blades which were independently tested by the IAAF and found to provide advantages in the range of 20 to 30% compared to normal limbs. This testing proved what had been suggested for months, based on physiological theories for the case. There was little new information, just proof of known physiology and an enormous advantage. Remarkably, the research later carried out by Pistorius (which has yet to be published or peer-reviewed, and which was done in "top-secret" with not a single independent witness or representative from the IAAF present) found the opposite--no advantage, and 20-30% was made to disappear.

So the million dollar question, with perhaps a (multi) million dollar answer, is how much does it cost to buy a scientific opinion?

The CAS process: Legal system meets science

The verdict from the hearing is expected relatively soon - the CAS usually takes much longer to get verdicts out, but given the proximity to the Beijing Olympics, it was considered important to deliver some verdict sooner, which is commendable. Once that verdict is announced, we'll certainly cover the outcome and evaluate the "science" if it is ever presented, though we're not optimistic of the evidence ever coming to light.

But for now, the last week has produced some interesting emails and observations that examine the CAS process a bit more.

First, the CAS process is an interesting one, and in particular, this kind of case is one that I am reliably informed is particularly "unpopular" within the legal boundaries of arbitration. Because effectively, what the CAS does is put two groups of disputing scientists in front of a panel of three non-scientists who have to make a judgement call, on an argument of science. Under these circumstances, with "duelling experts", the arbitrators are not equipped to evaluate the scientific facts and thus more likely to adopt an attitude saying that "unless one side can prove beyond doubt that there is an advantage, we must allow the technology into the sport".

The hearing therefore does not end up evaluating the "scientific debate," and therefore it becomes rather "advocacy by science." The scientific experts become not just presenters of the science, but advocates, and the credibility of the scientist becomes more meaningful than the content presented by them. This is however true for any "expert witness", and this case is no different. It's an interesting dilemma for the CAS arbitrators, however, and one wonders whether or not they have the option to consult with an independent scientist to sort through arguments that are well outside their field of expertise?

The Scientific expert: How much does an opinion cost? Science for sale

But more than this, the bigger issue here is incentives and scientific credibility. This past week, a group of post-graduate university students with whom I work with was tasked with looking scientifically at the marketing claims made by a group of supplement companies. I'll spare the details, though perhaps supplements is a topic we'll look at in the future, but the single "take home" message I got out of the scientific analysis, is that "Science sells, if you're prepared to sell yourself for money as a scientist."

Therefore, whenever you are evaluating a scientific argument of any description, you have to ask two key questions:
  1. What is the incentive? WHY are they saying this? In the case of supplement companies,they make claims because they want you to hand over $50 to buy their product. But why would a scientist endorse a product and declare it to be "proven"? The supplement industry has thrived thanks to sometimes tenuous associations with scientists and universities, but often, the scientist endorses a product. Why? See question two.
  2. How does the money flow? Who is ultimately splitting that $50 (which rapidly grows into billions of dollars)? Because as soon as some of that money makes its way into the scientist's pocket, then you have the likely answer to question #1. Because suddenly, the scientist is revealed to have a perverse incentive to change his "scientific" opinion and sell out to the lure of commercialism! That is not to say that scientist cannot do this - by all means, if one's expertise can earn a salary, go for it. But scientifically, that scientist's "objective" opinion is undermined, because he can longer adopt a neutral or contrary position without fear of losing money or financial support. If money is paid by Company X, then the scientist must support Company X, because failure to do so, or supporting Company Y, threatens his meal ticket and lifestyle. Therefore what we have is a classical conflict of interest situation.
The Pistorius case and the quotes at the top of this post are a great example of incentive conflicts in science. I've no doubt that Professor Herr is a great scientist. That's not in question, and our aim here is not to interrogate Prof Herr's scientific career. But it strikes me as perverse that the same scientist can, in one situation, say that "People have always thought the human body is the ideal. It's not".

And then, in a later situation, the same person can make the statements to the effect that the same technology which he believes is better than the human leg should be allowed into the sport. Bear in mind that the entire debate around the high-tech carbon fibre Cheetahs is not whether Oscar Pistorius should run (though this is how it has been portrayed). Instead, it is whether the TECHNOLOGY he uses should be legal, and this has future implications for the sport. Pistorius simply is the context or vehicle around which this debate is centered.

This expert clearly believes the prosthetic technology will soon become superior (if it isn't already - he doesn't want his own soon to be "archaic" limbs back, you will recall), yet has no qualms about advocating for its entry into the sport with his expert opinion. So what is the difference between these situations? Could it be commercial?

Of course, those who have much to gain financially from Pistorius' participation in the Games (and there are many, including Pistorius himself, his family, sponsors etc.) will argue this point, but at the very least, these incentives, as well as the flow of money, should be disclosed, for the sake of transparency. It is good practice and not uncommon for scientists to make a full disclosure prior to presenting or publishing their work. In fact it is a standard part of the process for many scientific journals.

Speaking of transparency, the next problem is the circumstances around which the testing was done. When the IAAF tested Pistorius in October, he was given opportunities to invite a "support team," which could include his own scientist(s) if he wished. He was given the chance to contribute to the testing process, even so far as to develop the outcomes which would be tested. That testing was completely independent, verified and agreed upon by both parties before it was ever carried out.

However, in Pistorius' own "top-secret" testing, not a single IAAF or independent witness was present or invited. Instead, a group of scientists who have a year-round, close relationship with Ossur, who stand to make millions in commercial exposure if Pistorius can run, completed the testing in private. To date, that testing has not been released, and I don't expect it will be.

The reality is that if any scientist was asked (and was willing), they could sit in their office and make up results, out of their heads, that could clear Pistorius of any advantage! Fictional, imaginative science could develop a series of graphs and tables to confirm the absence of any advantage in most scenarios, including this one. Let it be known by all that this is not science. Science is peer-reviewed, subject to scrutiny, evaluation and challenge. So where is the scientific process here? I am astonished that this "scientific evidence" was even admitted to court, but then the legal system never fails to throw up surprises - freedom for sale, anyone?

Wrap up and look ahead

Time will tell how the CAS rule on this issue. If, as is entirely possible, the three judges are not able to weed out the "science" from the science, and Pistorius is cleared to run, I will propose what I'll call "Operation West African Gold", where any willing sponsor (Nike, perhaps, who would not baulk at this opportunity based on their aggressive role in the present case) goes into West Africa, home of the fastest sprinters in the world, and finds 30 children, aged 10 to 14, with bilateral amputations. By 2020, they'll be winning half the golds in the Olympic Games, and the 400m world record will be 40 seconds. This is the Pandora's box which "science advocates" would open should the CAS rule in favour of Pistorius.



Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you for the insight into what is a story that I feel has gone on too long now. I really hope that the CAS are aware of what you have raised, because as a scientist and a lover of athletics, I can recognize the very obvious problems with Pistorius and his so-called "scientific proof" and experts. I hope, for the sake of what is right, they make the decision knowing all this.

In following this story, one thing that has struck me is how Pistorius has been quite aggressive in his bid, and I came across this story where one of England's most famous Paralympic athletes says she doesn't want him to run in the Olympic Games, but rather to stay a Paralympic athlete:

Grey-Thompson article

I've always seen that Pistorius has kind of appointed himself as a representative of the Paralympic community, but it would seem that even they don't support him!

One other thing - if I just look at Pistorius , it's fairly obvious that he doesn't have the same look as a world-class 400m runner (in the upper body, that is). Photographs of him look more like guys I used to run with in high school - we all ran 50 seconds or slower. He does, if I may say, look FAT, and nowhere near as ripped as a 46 second runner should.

Now, I know this is very subjective (and non-scientific), maybe that's why you have never said anything about it, but do you think you can tell anything from how he looks? And are there any results?


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Ian

Thanks for the comments. I agree that the issue has gone on too long - after the IAAF testing was done, I recall Pistorius making many public statements saying that he was happy with the testing and was confident he'd be cleared. As soon as the result found his advantage, he suddenly changed the tune and said that not all the important variables had been looked at! This is despite his having had the opportunity to contribute to the testing and have his team of experts present to make sure the testing was fair to him.

So it seems to me quite obvious that Pistorius will only accept one decision - the one that clears him. And it seems that they've put a lot of effort into this CAS hearing, and have found the right people to say the right thing for them, perhps at the right price? That is conjecture, but as I've said in this post, that's what I'd love to know!

As for the Paralympic community, I know very few who do support his bid - certainly, he's never provided proof for his own statements that he's doing this for all of them. It's more a case that he's doing it for all of them who agree, and those who don't, well, who cares about them anyway? I can appreciate his desire to run against better opposition, but this evolved away from that a long time ago. It used to be about competition and Olympic spirit, it isn't any longer.

Finally, interesting observation about the body type. I've avoided using this as an argument because it's subjective and no, I don't have any evidence either way. But let's just say that if I lined him up in a group of club runners who can run 52 seconds for 400m, then from the waist up, you'd be very hard pressed to spot the odd-one out! So I agree, he certainly looks like a regular, very average sprinter. But this is not an argument, nor should it be - there is enough evidence of his vast differences without this added observation, which everyone is free to make and then decide for themselves.

Thanks again

JM said...


Thank you again for an interesting perspective on things.

On face value, Herr Herr definately seems to be biased, but that's the way of the world. The structure of the arbitration court seems to be flawed, to say the least.

Does anyone know what Pistorius' best time on an 800m is?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...


Thanks. Yes, I suppose that is the way of the world - the supplement industry is set up that way, Gatorade is the other one I can think of in sports science, where many scientists receive their majority of their funding from a sports drink company to do research on sports drinks. Rather unsurprisingly, they conclude only positive things about sports drinks during exercise!

And it likely happens in many other fields, all of them probably. It becomes a problem when the entire system begins to revolve around these experts who effectively are mercenaries for advocacy, and who sell their opinions which may swing big decisions. I shudder to think how many criminals have escaped the legal system (or innocent people sent to prison, for that matter) because of expert testimony at criminal trials!

As for his 800m time, never done one in competition, which is itself a fascinating thing. When the IAAF testing was done, the German scientist Bruggemann was reported as suggesting that he might well be capable of a sub 1:40 performance.

I agree. If you look at his second 200m interval of his 400m race, he runs it in 22.7 secs, which is only 1 second (about 5%) slower than his fastest 200m race ever.

All the other elite athletes run the 2nd 200m in about 23 seconds (average for the 16 times of between 43 and 44.5 seconds). That is approximately 15% slower than their best 200m performances.

So there is no question that Pistorius is the fastest finisher in the history of the sport, relative to his own top speeds in the 200m event. Given that, his 800m speed will be scary, he'd be capable of running the second lap in about 49 seconds (5% slower than his current 400m best). No one in history has run a second lap faster than 51 seconds and still broken 1:44.

So all things considered, I would estimated based on this kind of analysis (which I'll do in more detail in the future), Pistorius is capable of a 48 second first lap, and a 49 second second lap, for a world record of 1:37.

Now, the next question, is why has he never run an 800m race? Could it be that the answer to the question would be obvious if he did?

This is also the reason why, if he is allowed to run, I would seek sponsorship to go into AFrica, find 30 young guys who've tragically lost their legs, and with the right money (the carbon-fibre blades are expensive - $20,000 each), 10 of them would be Olympic champions within 15 years.


JM said...

Hi Gents, thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment.

But Ross, if what you want happens - getting 30 African kids without legs and giving them blades to run on, you just might see that sub 2 hour marathon you don't think will ever happen...

Just kidding, but I think it raises a point. It's only once you really start exaggerating the possible scenarios that the scary possibilities come to the fore. A sub 5 hour Comrades ?!?!?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...


Yes, indeed, the possibilities are frightening. Just one possible limitation is that in the much longer distances, there might be a problem with comfort of the attachment - I am told that the impact prevents long distance (like marathons) from being done comfortably. That is people's opinion, and it's also one of the things that technology will improve, so maybe in the future, it will happen.

One thing that everyone has done so far is assume that Pistorius represents the "pinnacle" of performance on the carbon fibre Cheetahs. It hasn't been explicitly said, but it's implied in the argument - people are asking whether Pistorius should run. The problem is, if he's allowed to run, then so is anyone else, and what are the chances that some 12 year child in Jamaica or California turns up in 8 years' time, funded by a big sports company, and blasts a 41 second 400m time?

I'd say those chances are pretty good, for a couple of reasons. First, I think that probably 1% of the possible pool of amputees currently take to sport. If this law is passed, then you can be sure this will increase many-fold.

Second, big companies will go out and hunt for these people, and so the chances of finding a talented runner are enormous.

Third, their money makes it possible for children who previous could not afford to buy the Cheetahs to suddenly be competitors, so not only does the pool grow, but the nature of the people taking part changes - suddenly, you get people who might just have more natural ability taking part (see next point).

And fourth, when you look at lists of the top 100 sprinters of all time, 95% are black. So without making it a racial issue, there is a very strong argument to say that there is a very good chance that a black child, from West AFrica, is probably a good few seconds faster than Pistorius based on "genetic potential" alone. This person, given the same technology, might just blow the lid wide open.

Point is...open Pandora's box at your peril!


Anonymous said...

I don't see how getting this guy to testify on behalf of Pistorious is any different than the scientists who were paid by the IAAF to evaluate the claims.

That's the way the legal system works - each side, the plaintiff and the defense, get to call experts. Most of the time these experts get paid - and handsomely - for their expertise, opinion, and testimony.

Do you want to know the going rate for a forensic psychiatrist on the stand? Around $400-500/hr.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi anonymous

Big difference, and I think you're missing the point about the "corruption" in the science, because it's not only the fact that two experts are contracted by different sides, it's the history, the quotes, and the incentives each has to deliver their opinions that make them completely different.

Pieter Bruggemann was hired by the IAAF to evaluate this specific case, Prof Herr is an Ossur consultant, who has been involved with the company for years, as part of their team who actually develop products. That means his "neutrality" is discredited. I recognize that Bruggemann will also have been paid, but the massive difference is that he was brought in as an expert to evaluate the scientific issue.

Then, very importantly (and you've missed this), when Bruggemann did his testing, he actually reprsented the interests of BOTH PARTIES, not just the IAAF. Remember that when the IAAF testing was done, Pistorius was allowed to bring his own experts with him. He had the opportunity to consult with scientists and to contribute to the actual study design. That meant that Bruggemann was an independent researcher, collaborating with Pistorius, and paid to do the research. That's a huge difference from an Ossur man doing research in private, with no independent witnesses present.

But finally, and most importantly, you've missed the quote at the top of the post - Pistorius' expert believes that the human leg will soon be inferior to the prosthetics, and that the issue that is being evaluated in this debate. So therefore, his expert opinion (and I've no doubt he is an expert), is that the prosthetic will (or may already be) be better than human legs. Yet he's still supporting the claims to allow those "better legs" into competition.

SO yes, I realise that the legal system works this way, but this case is a little different from your typical "The patient has grounds for an insanity plea" case. Because, here, we're dealing with a scientific process, hard facts and research that can be gathered. And some of those facts have been gathered by people who are actually funded, or have been financially rewarded, by Ossur.

So don't just ask who paid who in the CAS hearing, but ask whether Herr has been paid for years leading up to this point, and whether he himself believes his own "expert opinion", given that he himself has said that prosthetics will outperform human legs. This is scientific incest, pure and simple.

To compare the IAAF scientist (who is paid to do the research on behalf of both parties) to a guy who has had a long relationship with the company that makes the blades is no comparison at all.


Unknown said...

so ... I was right

Athlé - JO - Pistorius gagne en appel

Oscar Pistorius a gagné en appel devant le Tribunal arbitral du sport (TAS) contre la Fédération internationale d'athlétisme, vendredi après-midi. L'athlète sud-africain, double amputé des jambes, et qui court avec des prothèses en carbone, souhaite en effet pouvoir participer à des compétitions avec des valides, notamment les Jeux Olympiques. L'IAAF ne le lui avait pas permis arguant de «l'avantage considérable» dont il bénéficait avec ses prothèses. Il est désormais libre de tenter de se qualifier, avec les valides, pour les JO.

«Comme vous pouvez l'imaginer, j'ai réprimé un énorme sourire pendant l'heure et demie qui vient de s'écouler, a commenté Oscar Pistorius une fois la nouvelle officialisée. Désormais, je peux dire que la vérité a éclaté. Je peux maintenant pousuivre men rêve olympique. Et si ce n'est pas pour 2008, ce sera pour 2012.»

Le TAS a expliqué par voie de communiqué que la Fédération internationale avait échoué à prouver que les régles de la compétition avaient été violées. «Sur la base des faits reportés par les experts convoqués par les deux parties, peut-on lire, le panel n'a pas été persuadé qu'il existait des preuves suffisantes d'un quelconque avantage métabolique retiré par le double amputé avec l'utilisation de ces prothèses ''Cheetah''.» Oscar Pistorius a jusqu'au 23 juillet pour obtenir son ticket pour Pékin. S'il ne réussissait pas à réaliser les minima, il pourrait toutefois participer au relais.

Anonymous said...

Sorry ,

Don't understand a word of French, but is it possibly this http://news.smh.com.au/world/bladerunner-pistorius-wins-appeal-against-olympic-ban-20080517-2f7y.html


Darrell and Amanda said...

First off let me start by saying that I work with amputees, and I just think you are way off if you think that the next generation of super runners are coming from amputees. If we were to take all the patient's we see in our office as a sample group, which is around 500. There is only one who uses the "cheetah foot” and he is an Iraq war veteran who is amputated above his knee. He really doesn’t need that foot it was given to him by someone at Walter Reed. Most are just old people who can barley walk. You need to look at the reasons people have there legs amputated. Diabetes is the main cause, followed by cancer, and I’m sorry if I don't think that diabetics and cancer survivors make the best athletes. I’m sure people are going to say, “Look at Lance Armstrong he had cancer, and he just got better.” Look, he lost a nut, we are talking about people who loose limbs, it’s not the same thing. Now if you look at people who are like Pistorius who have some sort of congenital birth defect, I would rule them out because most have lots of other things wrong with them. So you are way off to think that there is even close to 1% of the communities who could compete at that level. Another thing, when has it ever been a good thing to have part of your body cut off? How could that give someone an advantage? I see these people everyday, and I know the technology very well. But I still would not want to be an amputee. The human body is amazing, and technology just is not there were it’s better to have an artificial limb then a real one.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Jean-Francois

No, you were not. I'm afraid that I can't bring myself to base my scientific opinion on the opinion of 3 lawyers, and I'm not sure that any credible scientist would. Let's see those studies, and remember the circumstances surrouding them. Those tests were done without a single shred of independent observation - the only way that you can believe them is because you want to. They fit your model, and so you abandon the normal scientific process and flaunt a solution that is neither scientific, not based on anything other than other's opinions. That's not science.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Daryll and Amanda

Your post is completely based on emotion and disregards almost all the facts of the case. Your only analogy of a person who uses the Cheetah is that of an:

1. Adult
2. Amputee ABOVE the knee

Here, we are talking about someone who was born without tibias, learned to walk on prosthetics, and was amputated BELOW the knee. I am sure that you are able to appreciate the vast differences betwene those two?

So the point is, have you ever worked with children, aged 10, who have learned to walk on very basic prosthetic limbs, and who, when provided with the right support and technology, might learn to run on Cheetahs? And of course, they must be amputees below the knee.

Everything you mentioned about diabetes, cancer etc. is completely irrelevant to this argument, it merely serves to cloud an emotive issue with unnecessary facts and opinions. The issue here is clearly not that people who lose their limbs as a result of any of these conditions (and that includes veterans from wars) can regain their normal function. We have never said that, and you've gone on a verbal wander through areas that are not even remotely related to this particular issue.

But time will tell - by the Olympic Games of 2020, you may recall your words in your comments that super-athletes will not come from amputees. Time will tell.

One last thing - Oscar's scientific expert disagrees with you - he says that he doesn't wish to have his legs back (he's an amputee), because they will soon be archaic. So, who is wrong? The expert who himself believes that human legs are inferior?

That is the only thing I agree with him on.

JM said...

Right... so he now has to gain almost a second on his PB to just qualify. Will he go into intensive training or will the blades undergo a subtle and unnoticeable enhancement?

JM said...

One more point - would it not be fair to now prevent him from participating in the paralympics as well? After all, it seems a bit greedy to have your cake and eat 2 pieces of it?

Cogito Ergo Zoom said...

Discussions regarding the recent research should consider the following:

1)universities have conflict of interest policies that the researchers must conform to. At institutions such as MIT, which is full of inventors, these are very well-formulated, and professor
inventors potentially could lose funding and their careers if they do not follow these policies.

2) the point about the findings being secret, and that they will never see the light of day, is not accurate. Current press releases indicate that publishing was
the primary reason the researchers did the testing and all the work pro bono.

3) I do not accept that this team would fake data, pick a side in this dispute, and jeopardize their careers and scientific
reputations without financial remuneration when they know that what they publish will be analyzed all over the world by experts and non-experts alike.

4) Do you actually believe that six other scientists would sign off on a report biased by a single author with this allegedly obvious conflict of interest? Are we to assume that they would simply agree
with his bias and bury their independent opinions for the sake of his financial interests?

5) If Dr. Herr is so biased, why would the CAS allow him as an expert witness?

6) Dr. Herr has been vetted and cleared by MIT, the lawyers, and the CAS.

Darrell and Amanda said...

“First, I think that probably 1% of the possible pool of amputees currently take to sport. If this law is passed, then you can be sure this will increase many-fold.”

I was responding to this quote by you. I only mentioned the people I work with because this is the majority of people who are amputees. Yes I have worked with children, and they are truly remarkable. They can adapt very easily to wearing prosthesis, but not one would fit the mold you gave for the super-runners of the future.

There are just not that many people who would fit into your picture.

“Here, we are talking about someone who was born without tibias, learned to walk on prosthetics, and was amputated BELOW the knee.”

First thing he was born without fibulas. He probably would not be able to bear any weight if he just had fibulas.

The point I was trying to make was that there is not a huge group of people who would fit your mold of making the super athlete. Pistorius is the only one who fits that mold. No one is going to start finding children and preparing them to be athletes.

If you still don’t believe me I will be willing to call Shriners and ask they how many kids they have seen who would meet your mold. I would be willing to bet there would not be any.

It just seems silly to me and everyone else in the field that people think that missing limbs could be an advantage.

The Sports Scientists said...

JM said...
One more point - would it not be fair to now prevent him from participating in the paralympics as well? After all, it seems a bit greedy to have your cake and eat 2 pieces of it?

Hi JM, and thanks for joining the discussion here The Science of Sport.

This is a really interesting question, and we would love to hear what the other paralympic athletes think about this.

I agree with you that somehow it does not seem right that he competes in both competitions. However the issue of inclusion is at the heart of this matter, and admittedly our societies have a long and checkered past of discriminating against and taking advantage of minorities (be them racial, ethnic, or people with disabilities).

So on some levels it seems only fair that athletes be able to compete where they can when they are eligible, and currently he is eligible to compete in the Paralympics as well as IAAF sanctioned meetings.

At the risk of sounding "exclusionist," which I am not, it does however seem like a "having one's cake and eating it too" scenario. I guess to me it seems as if there has been this long and hard fought battle to compete in able-bodied events, and then on the heels of the CAS decision Pistorius seems to shift gears, admit that he might not qualify for Beijing anyway, and then proceed to return to Paralympic competitions and qualifiers---where surely he will cane everyone.

I suppose there are bigger issues dealing with mental boundaries and how we classify people in cultures and societies, and I will not attempt to break this down here!

We do invite more comment and discussion on this as it is a central point, but please can everyone keep it civil and provide the benefit of the doubt for others' opinions, i.e. let's not assume that anyone is being discriminatory or exclusionary.

Kind Regards,