Much of the debate on the place of advanced prostheses for the disabled in competitive sports often downplays arguably the most important perspective: that of the athletes who couldn't compete without them. In light of the recent MIT research project that found prosthetic limbs offering no advantage over natural legs, sprinter and double Cheetah leg user Aimee Mullins has some even more thought-provoking (and first-hand) analysis of the issue.
Mullins is guest editing Gizmodo's "This Cyborg Life" theme this week, and all of her pieces on the implications of modern cyborg enhancements in sport have been insightful. In her latest, she draws some worthwhile comparisons to other variations in skill or ability that are not only legal, but deemed completely normal in other sporting situations--whether it's Tiger Woods's double Lasik surgery or the complete re-write of competitive swimming's record books in the era of swimsuits like Speedo's LZR. She writes:
Where do we draw this ethical line on performance enhancement? I'm not sure I can answer that right now. What I will say is that I don't think it's useful to have this discussion around the existing Cheetah Leg, confusing the current non-enhanced technology with future prosthetics that will indeed provide augmentation. As with all evolution in sport, let's decide the parameters of competition when the technology actually exists, when we have metrics that inform us as to what extent augmentation is a certainty. Conjecture has no place in this discussion.
If you read PopSci, you know the future of prostheses is becoming more and more unreal--like something out of sci-fi. And it's only going to get more advanced. We're with Aimee--with today's prostheses giving disabled athletes a fair shake at competing with the best of the best on common ground, the world better prepare itself for a cyborg gold medalist. Because it's going to happen.
That'd be a little discouraging... you know... training your whole life to be in the olympics and then having your butt handed to you by a cyborg who just happened to have money, good insurance or the drive to say "Cyborg's can, too!" I'd be a little upset and feel a bit worthless.
Is it really so appalling that amputees not compete in sports that require limbs? Every effort should be made to accommodate them in the world. But shouldn’t a foot race, at minimum, require feet? I emphasize their struggle to approach normalcy. Yet, I want to tell them there is just a limit, and this is it.
Like they have been hinting at, maybe now these limbs do not give you an advantage, but one day they can and will ( for those with enough cash) So if there is a time to draw a line it is now. If we cant have chemical enhancements then we shouldn't be able to have mechanical enhancements.
I agree with above, we need to draw the line now and say," no feet can't run in foot race."
If we don't we might start getting a new bread of cheaters.
This is why we need a completely open games where, as long it's not illegal in the country hosting the event, it's allowed. Cybernetic enhancement? Nootropics? Blood boosting? Go for it!
I'm only half joking.
As long as the intent is to get back to a level playing field, I'm for it. Using the term cyborg seems inaccurate. Passive devices should be scrutinized, but they can hardly turn the wearer into some kind of superbeing.
Certainly there will have to be standards, but that's the nature of the competition. This is just another facet to be examined. We've had chemicals, clothing, and now gene manipulation may be possible. As science advances, the possibilities also advance.
Winning will still take effort and dedication. If someone can use some reasonable tech to overcome issues due to birth or accident, I'm all for it. I think that the lasik analogy is quite apt.
All in all, I doubt that this is going to be a huge issue.
There are only so many people who can use these devices
Are amputees hotter than people with legs? The truth is that the Olympics is a commercial event will amputees attract viewers? I'd say yes so they will probably be allowed.
you realize that people with amputated legs have to train just as hard as other Olympic athletes. In fact, they have to develop some muscles more because of their prosthetic legs
I say have a naturalist and "non" naturalist divisions. Where standard humans compete to see who can push their bodies the farthest and then have people see who can use technology to push their bodies even faster! I think it'd be cool having a no-holds-barred whatever you can do to run faster competition. (strictly bipedal) Just go for it!
How many of you that have commented here have actually read the article by Aimee Mullins? I think she makes some valid points. You might not change your mind, but at least you'd be better informed of some of the issues raised here if you do read it.
People who compete in sports at this level take every advantage that they can get away with be it cloths, equipment, shoes... wtf ever... I am a below the knee amputee, and I find the majority of the comments left here purely ignorant. If a person is wearing a prosthesis or matched prosthetics that make them the same height, and provides the same stride/gate as they were before the limb loss than there is no advantage.
At the current state of prosthetic development there is no leg available that is more energy efficient than the human leg/foot. It requires more energy to walk, let alone run in a prosthetic than it does for a normally bipedal person. All the current limbs do is act like a really fancy shock, and help with rebound/absorption vs. a solid leg/foot that has no impact absorption with a result of feeling like you ran your nub into wall.
If a fully able athlete looses a race to an athlete in prosthetic limbs, they in all honesty had more than the amputee ahead of them in the race, and loosing to amputee is just a excuse for them to get cranky about it.
I'm a 44 year old out of shape man yet I can sprint at 20 miles an hour and plan the complete a marathon in under 5 hours next year!
I have both my legs but the ADVANTAGES these blades give are much the same as stilts called "POWER-BOCK" give.
While running my stride is 6 meters!
The facts are clear to me, these legs are called "Cheeths" and for some to race against a normal person is a CHEAT. These springs like my own stilts are getting better and better. It will be so much better one day a bad athlete will cut their own legs off to be able to win with them.
I shall name no names buy one of these athletes train near where a group of lad play on their power-bock stilts and although they've ask if he would give them a race sometime he has refused point blank everytime as he know these lad may not only keep up with him but could beat him!
These things need to be banned from able body races because it will only be a matter time better one of these runner does the 100 meters in under 5 second something only superman could match!