2012 was a big year for sport, and by extension sporting controversy. This meant that there was plenty to write about during the first year of this blog. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to post as often or as in-depth as I would have liked as I was busy writing my Masters Thesis, which shares the title of this post. Below is the abstract for my thesis, which can be found in its entirety in the Essays section, or by following this link.
On the 4th of August 2012 South African runner Oscar Pistorius became the first athlete to compete at the Olympic Games while running on prosthetic limbs. Pistorius is a double below the knee amputee who runs on carbon J-shaped fibre blades. He represents a fusion of humanity and technology that will become an increasingly pressing issue for the sporting arena in the coming years. In this essay I use Pistorius as a case study to investigate how decisions regarding the use of enhancement technologies in sport should be made.
I argue that the key characteristic that should be assessed is whether Pistorius’ prosthetic legs mean that he is competing in a different sport to able-bodied athletes when he runs. I contend that the best method for deciding whether or not Pistorius is competing in the same sport as able-bodied athletes is to adopt a balance of excellences view of sport (Devine, 2010). I use this model to show that the excellence of exploiting technical aids is far more important for Pistorius than it is for his able-bodied counterparts. From this I conclude that what Pistorius does when he runs is not comparable to able-bodied runners. Thus he should not be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes at the Olympic Games.