Techno-Doping or the Future of Sports Competition?


Legless sprinter Oscar Pistorius wants to participate in the Beijing Olympics. However, the I.A.A.F., the governing body of track and field sports has disqualified him. Why? Because amputee Pistorius uses high-tech carbon fiber blades known as Cheetahs. His time in a recent relay race might qualify him to participate in the Summer Olympics if he had legs. It is an open question about whether his Cheetahs give him an unfair advantage since, according to the New York Times, they return "only 80 percent of the energy absorbed in each stride while a natural leg returns up to 240 percent, providing much more spring."

The Times quotes Robert Gailey, an associate professor at the University of Miami Medical School who asks the I.A.A.F.,

"Are they looking at not having an unfair advantage? Or are they discriminating because of the purity of the Olympics, because they don't want to see a disabled man line up against an able-bodied man for fear that if the person who doesn't have the perfect body wins, what does that say about the image of man?"

An even more interesting question is asked by transhumanist George Dvorsky,

…given the 'arms race' nature of competition, will these positional advantages cause athletes to do something as seemingly radical as having their healthy natural limbs replaced by artificial ones? Is it self-mutilation when you're getting a better limb?

Sports are by definition governed by arbitrary rules, so, as far as I'm concerned, the governing bodies of various sports can make up and impose whatever new arbitrary rules they want. However, just as there is now a Paralympics for disabled athletes, there will one day be a Supralympics for enhanced athletes.

Whole New York Times article here .