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World's First Cybernetic Athlete To Compete

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the no-respect-for-hearing-aids-or-pacemakers dept.

Medicine 199

Tufriast writes "The world's first mechanically augmented athlete, Oscar Pistorius, will now compete against unaugmented peers on behalf of South Africa. He'll be running in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the World Athletics 2011 Championships. Pistorius, a double leg amputee, has had special leg blades crafted for him that allow him to compete against his peers. He's fought hard to prove they provide no advantage, and according to IAAF they do not. This should be a very interesting race to watch. His nickname: The Blade Runner."

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English... (-1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031058)

English motherfucker! Do you speak it?

The world's first mechanically augmented athlete...

He's fought hard to prove they provide no advantage...

augmented - Adjective
1. Having been made greater in size or value.

If, by definition, he has been made greater in value by the addition of the prosthesis, how could he prove they provide no advantage? This is a logical paradox.

Re:English... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031066)

Augmented from his previous state of having no lower legs to having blades.

Re:English... (0)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031086)

+1 Discussion closed

Re:English... (1)

Tomun (144651) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031080)

Idiot. He's a double amputee. Of course the blades augment him. The question is not whether they give him an advantage over his unbladed self, but over other runners with legs and no blades.

Re:English... (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031298)

No, the question is whether it gives him an advantage over his unaugmented and unamputated self. If you can design the prosthetics to any level of performance, up to and including superior performance to your competitors, It doesn't really make it "more fair" to choose 80th percentile or 90th percentile or 50th percentile level performance. It's not really a contest at that point, but a demo.

Really, what they should do is offer a separate category of competition: "open" and "natural". In the "open" contests any competitor should be able to use any contraption they choose (including nothing), as long as there is no stored energy at the start of the competition and/or no net change in energy at the end of the competition.

This rule would take care of the problem where a jetpack full of rocket fuel would change the very nature of a road race, but spring-feet even though they need to be compressed somewhat at the start might be acceptable.

In fact, we've already got machine augmented races using just those sort of rules: NASCAR and speed skating both follow the above model.

Re:English... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032008)

What happens if I have a solar panel on my back? What about if someone fires a 2GW laser at it?

Re:English... (1)

Tomun (144651) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032136)

Well he was born with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs. His unamputated self wouldn't be much of a runner. So you'd have to compare his blades to what his legs would be like with different DNA. So you might was well compare them to legs in general, which is (probably) what they have done.

Re:English... (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031116)

He's fought hard to prove they provide no advantage, and according to IAAF they do not.

I will admit the sentence is terrible but you hardly need to that offensive because of it.

Re:English... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032102)

I will admit the sentence is terrible but you hardly need to that offensive because of it.

He does need to be offensive, because it's the only way he can get attention.

See, he is augmented by Slashdot.

Re:English... (-1, Flamebait)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031216)

I think the logical paradox is that someone so clearly retarded was able to write and format a post to slashdot.

Link (1)

hilather (1079603) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031072)

Since the article doesn't have a picture of this legs, I went looking for a picture and found it here. Its also an article about the 2008 decision to not allow him to compete in the Olympics back then. I wonder whats changed?

Re:Link (2)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031090)

I wonder whats [sic] changed?

Whinging and whining and Political Correctnes (TM).

Re:Link (3, Funny)

SniperJoe (1984152) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031108)

I put it down more to the fact that he now has an AWESOME nickname.

I can see it now:

Previously
Spokesman: "Hey guys, Oscar Pistorius wants permission to race in the Olympics, do we let him in?"
Olympic Committee: "Meh."

Now
Spokesman: "Hey guys, The Blade Runner wants permission to race in the World Championships."
World Athletic Committee: "Oh hell yeah!"

Re:Link (1)

stjobe (78285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031190)

Personally, I liked his other nickname better: "The Fastest Man on No Legs" :)

Re:Link (0)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031460)

It's a bad nickname bacause blade runners are humans who hunt down and *retire* replicants. Except for Deckard who may or may not have been a replicant himself. Great, now I feel like a dork. Thanks alot slashdot.

Re:Link (1)

lancelotlink (958750) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031584)

Eh, don't worry about the movie reference. Nobody is looking at that since everybody is now looking at your combination of a and lot to one word.

Re:Link (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031828)

blade runners are humans who hunt down and *retire* replicants.

Really? Thanks for letting us know that.

Re:Link (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032038)

Great, now I feel like a dork

Demonstrating that you've seen a film of a book, but not read the book that it was based on, does not make you a dork.

Re:Link (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031222)

Spokesman: "Hey guys, The Blade Runner wants permission to race in the World Championships."

At least they didn't call him Steve Austin [wikipedia.org]

Re:Link (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031916)

Then he would have to run really slowly while making a "CH ch ch ch ch ch" sound with his mouth.

Re:Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031380)

I put it down more to the fact that he now has an AWESOME nickname.

In fact, he's had that nickname for a very long time.

But you're right.... it is an awsome nickname. :)

Re:Link (3, Informative)

tburkhol (121842) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031158)

There's an argument that, on one hand, because he doesn't have to drag along the extra weight of lower legs, feet, and shoes, and his prostheses return energy very efficiently, that he might have an energetic advantage. On the other hand, he's missing a lot of musculature that ordinarily contributes power to forward progression, so he ought to be at an energetic disadvantage.

One of the most complete studies of this question, in this particular athlete, was not published until 2009 http://jap.physiology.org/content/107/3/903.long [physiology.org] Unfortunately too late to contribute to the Olympics decision.

Re:Link (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031282)

In reference to your last paragraph, are you implying that he indeed has an advantage over non-amputees? Otherwise, why is it unfortunate that the study wasn't published earlier?

Re:Link (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031310)

Unfortunate because they didn't have enough reliable information to base their decision upon? You do realise that in the world of sports, you're excluded even on reasonable suspicion of using artificial enhancers.

Reference: Doping.

Re:Link (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031650)

A race of who can produce the fastest mutant cyborg athletes would be pretty exciting to watch. It may be an ethical grey area, but everyone involved is a volunteer anyway...

Re:Link (1)

tburkhol (121842) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031930)

The Weyand group claim that Pistorius runs "differently" than non-amputees, which is not surprising, considering he's missing a joint, a bunch of muscles, and is working with a substantially different structure. But they also claim that, in terms of 'performance' as measure by things like the metabolic cost of transport and speed-time performance is fundamentally the same as non-amputees.

He spends less time in the air, more time on the ground, and consequently produces lower peak vertical forces. But he's producing those forces with less muscle, using an purely elastic mechanism that can't change force as quickly as the active muscles. On balance, their conclusion is that being an amputee running is more like throwing left-handed than it is like using an atlatl (spear-thrower).

That won't stop it from being controversial - at that level the difference between win and lose is incredibly narrow (and incredibly mental), so anything that's different about the winner - the material of his shoes, whether he's shaved, whether he's missing his lower legs - can be cited as conferring an advantage.

Re:Link (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031992)

It was unfortunate because he was not allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympics. He may have been if the study had been published earlier.

Re:Link (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031804)

he's missing a lot of musculature

That's entirely the problem. He's missing the musculature which saves lots of weight. His prosthesis returns far more energy (roughly double) than that of the best ever observed possible in humans. Basically this means he has equipment that saves energy and because of the loss of limb, a sizable weight savings. He absolutely does have a significant advantage, according to two different documentaries and independent studies I watched/read at the time. This fact is directly observable in that his performance decline does not follow the established trends of every other athlete in the world.

While I do think its wonderful he's able to maintain world class performance, the fact remains, he has massive advantages. And in fact, in the above, it was estimated that without his equipment and with a normal leg, he would likely be toward the back of the pack of Olympic competitors.

Re:Link (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031224)

I wonder whats [sic] changed?

Whinging and whining and Political Correctnes (TM).

If it's political correctness to allow people to compete on a level playing field, just call me Mr PC.

Re:Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031714)

Ah, but is it a level playing field? We don't currently know enough about the various advantages and disadvantages that come with using prosthetic limbs of this type to come to a conclusion.

Re:Link (2)

stjobe (78285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031186)

In 2008, they only measured him running in a straight line, this time they looked at a complete 400m race. They concluded that he's at a disadvantage at the start and in every corner, and thus for the complete race he's not at an "unfair advantage".

That, and perhaps the fact that he's no threat - his personal best on any distance (100m, 200m, 400m) is about 2 seconds behind the World Record.

Re:Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031242)

It will be interesting to see where this goes. After all, shoes and clothing and training regimens can all give an unfair advantage. So can being born above average height, for that matter, but we don't have min/max heights for competitive running. Okay, in the case of equipment and training it's only unfair until the competitors get hold of it, but then competitors from rich countries with access to the money for better training and lifestyles are unfairly advantaged, I wonder where the line should be drawn. We saw athletes risk illness augmenting their bodies with drugs, I wonder if we'd ever get to the point where athletes have body parts removed to give them an edge?

Re:Link (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031810)

I wonder where the line should be drawn.

My guess is that it will be as always in sports: When something becomes so superior that it makes the sport boring to watch, there will be regulations to either make it less useful, forbid it or to make it a requirement. Sport really isn't about "fair competition" (which you can't really have anyway, as no two people are alike), it's about entertainment and advertising money.

Re:Link (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031250)

That, and perhaps the fact that he's no threat - his personal best on any distance (100m, 200m, 400m) is about 2 seconds behind the World Record.

Or so he claims ;)

But really, if he did end up beating a world record, it would open this whole can of worms again..

Sandbagging (2)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031348)

That, and perhaps the fact that he's no threat - his personal best on any distance (100m, 200m, 400m) is about 2 seconds behind the World Record.

He might have been sandbagging it all this time. Can you imagine the splash if he actually wins?

Re:Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031478)

Since the article doesn't have a picture of this legs, I went looking for a picture and found it here. Its also an article about the 2008 decision to not allow him to compete in the Olympics back then. I wonder whats changed?

He appealed that decision and won the appeal, but having won the appeal, he then failed to get the qualifying time to get into the 2008 Olympics, so the decision was a moot point.

The difference this time round is that he has made the qualifying time, and his previous successful appeal still holds; in fact, he's been competing in able-bodied competitions ever since the appeal.

By the way -- I find the title of this article somewhat misleading: he isn't cybernetic. Cybernetics implies some sort of electronic or powered enhancement; Pistorius's blades are purely mechanical.

Very very old news (3, Informative)

hedleyroos (817147) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031118)

I'm a South African. He has been competing against able-bodied athletes for ages now. It's not news. A discussion on Slashdot as to whether the blades are an unfair advantage over other athletes will be much more interesting.

Re:Very very old news (2)

rcasha2 (1157863) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031160)

Even if it is determined on this occasion that they do not, every minor modification or newer and better model of the blades will reignite the debate: "Do they now constitute an advantage?" This risks changing the sport into a competition of who has the best technology.

Re:Very very old news (2, Interesting)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031268)

Indeed, although I wonder why that's so. If Nike or Adidas create a new sports shoe that gives a competitive advantage, and only certain athletes have access to it, do the sports bodies get their panties in a twist? The whole idea of the Olympics in particular (where he was prevented from running) is that it's meant to bring people together - here's someone who is trying to take a pretty crappy hand life's dealt them and turn it into a positive.

Re:Very very old news (1)

rcasha2 (1157863) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031500)

Actually yes, they do have very strict parameters on things like sports shoes, bats etc. Without such parameters you could end up with competitors (even those with perfectly good legs) racing with http://www.air-trekkers.com/ [air-trekkers.com]

Re:Very very old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031520)

So instead of wasting the hundreds or thousands of man-hours that the various international committees have spent / will spend debating his eligibility, why can't he just be content with cleaning up at the paralympics which is the competition that was created for people like him? Rather selfish of him IMO to cause all this fuss.

Re:Very very old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031666)

Yes they do. See also: Swimming and the ban on whole body suits.

Re:Very very old news (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032048)

That was some of the same questions that were asked when speed skaters started using the clap skates in the Winter Olympics. The problem then wasn't so much exclusivity as anyone could use them; some teams had more experience using them than others. These days it seems everyone uses them now.

Re:Very very old news (1)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031594)

Well the blades are lighter than legs, consume no bodily resources, require no "plumbing" or "wiring", produce no waste products, feel no pain, and are more efficient than flesh and bone in that more energy is converted into forward motion by them than by organic legs.

I'm waiting for the first athlete to have organic legs amputated and replaced with carbon fibre blades because they're now allowed. That will be awesome.

Re:Very very old news (1)

UnresolvedExternal (665288) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031174)

I agree, anyone have information on how they did this?

- Can you measure the "springyness" of the lower leg?
- Or the proportional muscle power of the upper leg and make a ratio?

I would have thought the qualities that make the difference at this level can't be summed up with such primitive data...

Re:Very very old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031214)

Does the Olympics regulate shoes? (I am really asking this question as a quick google didn't find much). If they do, they should regulate this guys new shoes for his legs. If they don't regulate shoes, then it is already about technology and people should just back up and back out - let this guy run with his fancy shoes/legs.

Re:Very very old news (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031492)

You don't see the difference between shoes and legs? Grip is obviously important, but given that any track runner could have pretty much any pair of shoes they want, and they all just run in spiked track shoes - it's the legs and form that are more important at the end of the day. If we start allowing mechanical appendages, it's easy to imagine that (eventually) there would be "legs" out there that can vastly outperform biological legs over short distances, even if they were limited to using blood glucose for energy (they would be allowed days beforehand to charge up, same as normal legs, but they could probably store energy more efficiently).

Re:Very very old news (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031354)

Springyness of the lower leg is based on function of tendons. It's a fairly well known feature in sports medicine, and we've been replacing/sewing tendons on sportsmen for a while to treat ruptures with materials that resemble original closely enough not to impair performance.

Proportional muscle power of any portion of the leg is measurable through equipping a harness that can measure all directional forces generated by the leg and split them by portion. With modern sensors and robotics, this should be constructable.

Process of running itself in all its complexity is widely studied, so we do have the knowledge base there.

Re:Very very old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031448)

How about weight savings. In auto racing they spend thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars to save a half of a pound. Carbon fiber legs has to be a weight savings, especially when it comes moving them to take steps.

A shoe that weighs a half of a pound less than other peoples shoes would also be an advantage. What if you could cut five pounds of weight off your legs and keep the same functionality? Is that an advantage?

Nathan

Re:Very very old news (1)

fussy_radical (1867676) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031208)

If I remember correctly, he is able to run the same speed with less energy expended. I'd call that an unfair advantage.
 
    I don't mind him competing though, there are physical limitations to how fast a human can run, swim, etc. and I don't think the human body evolves fast enough to make things interesting. I just don't want mediocre athletes making this an elective surgery in an attempt to become great.

Re:Very very old news (2)

SeeSp0tRun (1270464) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031718)

It is similar to Rohan Murphy [go.com] who was "best of the best" for quite some time on ESPN. He had no legs, and was a very good wrestler in his weight class.

If you step back and think about it, anybody would be a great wrestler, having no legs (lower weight class), a far lower center of gravity (most impact moves require 200% effort to lift and then throw him), and his upper body mass would put him a few weight classes up, if he had legs. While I admire the guy for competing, and doing well, it seems as though his particular disability is an advantage in the sport.

Re:Very very old news (3, Informative)

kryten (28985) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031244)

Surely not cybernetic as no feedback involved (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031124)

Can these by called cybernetic if there is no obviously controlling feedback loop in the device? I am not saying that they have to be powered, just that they communicate back to the human in a significant way.

Me,

BSc Hons Human Cybernetics

Re:Surely not cybernetic as no feedback involved (2)

mlk (18543) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031152)

I'd guess he can feel the impact with the floor through the stump, and what more feedback do you need?

If not good enough, what is the correct term for them?

Re:Surely not cybernetic as no feedback involved (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031312)

These are not cybernetic in any way. No feedback, no power, no control over their actions. These are just passive prostheses, much like a glass eye or a plastic testicle.

What's next, calling a peg-legged pirate a cyborg because his wooden leg is "cybernetic"? Then we send him to ninja school and we have "cyborg pirate ninja".
If we want to see cybernetic athletes, the closest we can come was that Japanese paralympic, who had a boat propeller hidden in his prosthetic leg, but was found out and got disqualified.

Re:Surely not cybernetic as no feedback involved (2)

Ambvai (1106941) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031468)

What's next, calling a peg-legged pirate a cyborg because his wooden leg is "cybernetic"? Then we send him to ninja school and we have "cyborg pirate ninja".

Great! Then we just need to kill him and bring him back to have the legendary Ninja Zombie Pirate Robot!

Re:Surely not cybernetic as no feedback involved (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031868)

It's a bit more active than a glass eye or plastic testicle: the leg does store and release energy. It's not just there for appearances.

But it's far from cybernetic. It has no computing power at all. And while it's very sophisticated in its design, it's ultimately a very simple device. It's no more cybernetic than a ratchet screwdriver.

Scientifically shown to provide advantage over... (4, Interesting)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031140)

...runners with natural ankles and feet.

I admire the guy's tenacity (double amputee at 11 months and still played rugby growing up) but I recall seeing him competing a few years ago in Europe (some track meet in Rome iirc) and he was no where near the fitness level of the other atheletes and yet was qualifying for heats (in other words - he was 'heavy' at the time.)

Now unless this is an unfortunate coincidence between the potentially fastest human ever having his legs amputated as a baby, it is an unfair advantage. The IAAF, contrary to the OP's assertion, claim that it provides him a clear and obvious advantage mechanically and say they have the data to back it up...

Re:Scientifically shown to provide advantage over. (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031176)

...runners with natural ankles and feet.

Considering that many oxygen-consuming muscles are no longer there, I would think that alone should indicate an advantage.

Re:Scientifically shown to provide advantage over. (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031306)

The mass alone is an advantage. One of the IAAF scientists stated that he has a 30% mechanical advantage in lifting his legs during a run.

Re:Scientifically shown to provide advantage over. (3, Funny)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031424)

Just like how Lance Armstrong had a 50% testicle mass advantage. Unfair!

Re:Scientifically shown to provide advantage over. (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031674)

Offset by the resultant missing testosterone? ;)

Opinions Will Be Based On Whether He Wins (4, Insightful)

s31523 (926314) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031156)

If he wins a lot then he will be declared as having an unfair advantage, and if he loses (or just average) he will be declared as having no advantage.

Re:Opinions Will Be Based On Whether He Wins (1)

rsimpson (884581) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031356)

I was listening to a radio interview with him the other day, and he says he was only placing 14th in the able-bodied races. So I don't think him wiping the floor with the other contestants is going to happen.

Re:Opinions Will Be Based On Whether He Wins (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031376)

Not really. The claim is that he is currently losing not because he doesn't have an advantage, but because he's simply not in as good of a shape as other runners. This is at least partially true, there are known cases of him qualifying through some tourneys when being clearly out of shape (not in the pre-competition training process, some trainers call the state "heavy" I believe). Even world's best athletes would have problems qualifying while in this state.

A strange game... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031166)

I've never understood the nigh-jesuitical levels of logic chopping(with not infrequent descent into mere hand-waving) that go on surrounding "fair" and "unfair" advantages in high level sports.

You've got a tiny number of heavily selected freaks of nature, endowed by various quirks of heredity with highly atypical phenotypes, augmented by years or decades of carefully designed training, controlled diet, etc. whose handlers cry out every time somebody has the temerity to shoot a little synthetic testosterone instead of just expressing freakish amounts of it naturally "Oh, no! We have to set a good example for the kids! Professional athletes are just regular folks who get a good night's rest and eat their wheaties!". Similar things come up with, say, hemoglobin concentrations: Does your blood contain more iron than most steel alloys because your ancestors were the spacesuit people who live at 50,000 feet above sea level? No problem, come right in! Does your blood contain more iron than most steel alloys because your doctor has been extracting and re-injecting it? Banhammer!

Re:A strange game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031236)

You make a good point. But I guess it's one of those, "where do you draw the line" situations. They've gone with, "you did what you could with the way you were born". Then they deal with outliers like this on a case by case basis.

It's not perfect, but I'm not sure there's a better way to do it. And honestly, I don't think many of these people were born freakishly capable. Runners, basketball players, and some others. Not every sport. Hell, I couldn't begin to count all the horribly unhealthy football or say... curling "athletes" I've seen play at a high level.

Re:A strange game... (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031292)

A great many athletes end up horribly unhealthy. Some of the more adventurous doping can chew you up quickly and unpleasantly; but high-level athletic performance will grind you down good and hard in the long run.

The one where even "what you were born with" seems to break down into pure handwaving is Women's high-level stuff. All the really weird phenotypes show up there: XYYs, Chimeras, burly intersex specimens of various flavors, all sorts of obscure genetic and phenotypic curiosities that definitely aren't XY males; but really, really rub people the wrong way as "women"...

Re:A strange game... (2)

Ambvai (1106941) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031596)

An excellent example of a somewhat-recent controversial athlete: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caster_Semenya [wikipedia.org]

She's a South African runner who, due to a variety of factors but probably her speed and appearance, had her sex called into question. I remember talking to a few friends of mine in the medical field about her at the time and one of the more interesting theories was that she may be sexually male but with a developmental disorder that causes superficially female genitalia to develop.

Re:A strange game... (1)

Zebedeu (739988) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031852)

The point is that if you allow "supplements", AKA "doping", then the only way to compete will be for all athletes to start injecting.

For instance, every athlete is allowed to take sugar for that extra energy boost.
That's a supplement with (almost) no side effects. Anything stronger than that gets banned, and rightly so IMHO.

Re:A strange game... (4, Interesting)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031896)

I've never understood the nigh-jesuitical levels of logic chopping(with not infrequent descent into mere hand-waving) that go on surrounding "fair" and "unfair" advantages in high level sports.

The underlying problem is the idea of "high level sports", "professional athletes", massive sponsorship deals and huge capital pork projects to host athletics events. If it was just a case of the misty-eyed wholesome self-improvement aspect of sport for sport's sake then it would be petty to argue about such things and there would be less incentive to cheat. As it is, though, these are professionals (highly paid in some cases) trying to defend their livelihood against "unfair competition".

"Oh, no! We have to set a good example for the kids! Professional athletes are just regular folks who get a good night's rest and eat their wheaties!".

Of course there's nothing particularly natural about regular folks who eat their wheaties (or anything else that doesn't grow on trees in the Rift Valley), had their childhood diseases cured and can expect to live 40 years beyond the MTBF of the original homo sapiens. Should we stop worrying and embrace the PharmaLympics, and treat anybody who wrecks their health with performance-enhancing drugs the same way we treat those of us who have wrecked our health by sitting behind a desk all day and living on pizza and coffee for the sake of our career?

That'd be Wheaties(tm) - fortified with iron and vitamins, official breakfast cereal of the BigSportsTornament(r)(tm)(c) by the way.

Re:A strange game... (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031920)

Why can't a rook move diagonally?
Why is moving through water using your arms and legs one sport while using a paddle and a vessel made out of fiberglass as intermediaries a different sport?
Personally I'm not really interested in spectator sports, but it seems to me that it's about traditions, superstitions, tribalism and generally pretty arbitrary sets of rules that combine to create enough challenge and drama for enough people to care about.
I imagine Olympic sports have a long running (pun not intended) tradition of ancient Greek ideals of the perfect body and the like.
It's probably also easier for a sports organization to endorse an element of the luck of being born with the right genes or the choice of training over having your body chemically or mechanically augmented as a barrier for entry.

His achivements will always be down to the blades (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031238)

I will ruin the basis of athletics where the best human (on the day) wins. If he was to win there will always be the debate on whether or not is its an advantage.

It also raises the financial entry barrier instead of needing to a find a sponsor for maybe upto $10000 for shoes (they will find you if your any good). It will bring in discussion of a tech race or whether improvements on the current blades are advantage or not.

This is why we have the disabled Olympics for people with various augmentations can compete against one another, he belongs there. If they start posting competition times then hold an event for both.

Re:His achivements will always be down to the blad (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031358)

You're being naive. First of all he is human, so technically if he bests other humans, then he is by definition "best human". But you are probably implying "best physically unaugmented human", which probably excludes doping too, etc. But you have to look at it this way: except doping and attaching carbon-fiber prosthetic to yourself, there's a myriad of ways to augment yourself and still get qualified for Olympics. Drinking funny drinks, eating funny food which contain numerous "good" doping drugs that the commitee doesn't (and cannot) disallow, exercising so much that it blurs the definition of "human" - in short, modern athletes are no more human than they are products of if not breeding then definitely "growing" where they live by strict diets and discipline. Heck, they avoid sex before the races. Is that average human to you? It's worlds apart from an average human. My point is, you should take it very easy on "human" definition.

I say I don't care whether it's fair or not, precisely because Olympics today is like football - athletes are bought and sold, managers manage, an entire industry that deals with "augmenting" athletes legally has been established. If Oscar wins, he actually makes the world a more interesting place to live, which is what counts. He will be studied further, conclusions will be drawn from facts and not hypothesis, we will know more about our bodies. Other non-augmented athletes will try to beat him, just like man has tried to outrun beast back in the day - didn't stop him because beast was different from man.

Bottomline: fair fight is actually very boring thing in the long ron, it tastes like water. You don't want to only drink water, you want some excitement in it. You want a temporary shift of power and balance. Oscar gives us an excitement, even to his fellow athletes. And at the end of the day, he fights himself. While we watch. Don't you love a good show?

Re:His achivements will always be down to the blad (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031746)

Bottomline: fair fight is actually very boring thing in the long run, it tastes like water.

Most Olympic sports are dead boring but we only watch them once every for years. No one watches athletics for entertainment.

I think the line is generally drawn where the athlete is being harmed. In my opinion the main reason performance enchanting drugs are illegal is people will be forced to permanent harm them selves or risk their lives to compete. Seriously I'm sure you can find some would take the drugs to peak for four years and then die at the end (bloody shit sport to watch or support). If that’s negative you will still find people overdosing or having heart attacks or something. If the blades are better the sport becomes restricted to people with double amputated feat or people willing to cut them off. Where do you stop here i'm fairly sure in the next 200 years will will have a "terminator" if we stick a human brain inside it and it wins is that good for athletics and in the mean time the blades will get better.

I say I don't care whether it's fair or not, precisely because Olympics today is like football - athletes are bought and sold, managers manage, an entire industry that deals with "augmenting" athletes legally has been established.

Bolt still beats Gay.

poor little tink tink (0)

phik (2368654) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031288)

...is back!

A Farewell to...Legs? (5, Funny)

LibRT (1966204) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031300)

This reminds me of an assignment I was given in high school English class: the book we were to study that year was Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms". Prior to starting the book, the teacher asked that we write an essay outlining our expectations of the book, based solely on the title. Well, I had no idea what the hell the book would be about - all I could come up with was a future in which superior, articficial limbs became widely available, and once a person's growth stopped, they'd have their natural limbs hacked off and replaced with the better artificial limbs in a ceremony called, "A Farewell to Arms!" The teacher gave me an "A+", but looked at me funny the rest of the year...

Re:A Farewell to...Legs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031748)

Thanks for that ! Funniest thing I've read in a while ...

Re:A Farewell to...Legs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37032138)

He didn't even let you read TFS?
Why am I not surprised you ended up on Slashdot? ;)

(So many jokes about "a professional/augmented Slashdot athlete", him knowing all along, etc in there, I'm having trouble making a choice.)

Me too! (3, Insightful)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031316)

I will be competing in the 400m and 4x400m relay using my specially crafted Chevy Cavalier. It's a manual transmission, so the engine computer won't give me an unfair advantage.

Oblig... (3, Funny)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031320)

I for one welcome our new cybernetic..... peers?

I'm an amputee and find this all pretty insulting (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031344)

advantage.. cyberman.

for fuck sakes, they're just carbon fiber, they arent robotic, and being maimed by a tractor certainly wasnt a fucking "augmentation". the fact is that I can probably outrun most people reading this, as they are fat, and I am not.

the best prosthetics designed for such things (like this guys), will give back somewhere about 80% of a normal foots energy in a stride, according to marketing literature, real life is less.

the poster above me thinks the special olympians are all augmented, they should all stay where "they belong". Nope, cant compete with all the doped up muscleheads. What a douchebag.

I was told I was not allowed to compete, or take part in things my whole childhood, especially at things I'm good at. The excuse was usually some bullshit about how "our insurance wont cover it", but I always felt the truth was people just couldnt stand to see their kids lose to a cripple. At anything. I'm talking the fucking chess club in middle school. No joke. Somehow an amputee playing chess after hours was an unacceptable risk (when he checkmated the teachers prodigee genius son in 6 moves and made him cry)

Haters gonna hate. I'm still better than you at most things.

and Drugs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031366)

really ought to go more mainstream with this idea, let them do whatever they want, prosthetics, drugs, whatever, make it more like F1.

Advantage... compared to what type of shoes? (1)

valpr (2385048) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031382)

The previous decision, where they claimed that he have an advantage, was based on estimations that: - His blades provides around 90% of energy returned, while as - Human leg provides around 60% of energy return (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUoIQ-KeZ1A [youtube.com] around 13:10) I'm completely blank concerning the athletics and world-rank sports competitions, but I got several questions: How athlete's shoes could affect this energy return figures? What types of shoes were tested with this 60% energy return? What prevents athletes from using different types of shoes that provide higher energy return?

We are all mechanically augmented cyborgs (1)

coldsalmon (946941) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031486)

Few of us, these days, can survive without mechanical augmentation. Every day, I wear shoes, drive a car, use a smartphone, and wear a coat so that I don't freeze to death. In the case of warm clothing, I literally could not survive without these mechanical augmentations. I also literally depend upon complex social systems such as the banking system for my survival. I appreciate the fact that this individual has had a part of his body replaced, rather than simply adding external functionality such as shoes, but it is basically a variation on the same thing.

We already know how this turns out (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031516)

Just look to Lance Armstrong. Testicular cancer.... has to take testosterone to supplement. He keeps winning "everything" and claims no advantage over people who aren't taking testosterone.

The only thing that could break this cycle and prove there is no advantage would be for him to lose.

10 Second Advantage (1)

markg11cdn (1087925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031570)

The 'Science of Sport' blog wrote about this in 2009 : http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/11/oscar-pistorius-gets-10-second.html [sportsscientists.com] Back then, two scientists hired to look at the case found that the artificial limbs would take 10 or more seconds off his 400 meter time. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-11/smu-opa111709.php [eurekalert.org]

Amputate for victory (1)

m0n0RAIL (920043) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031648)

If these are allowed, and it turns out they do in fact provide a significant advantage over biological legs, coaches will start putting pressure on professional runners to amputate their legs and have blades fitted in the interest of their careers.

Bring on the cyber games (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031664)

Screw the regular olympics. I want to see a games where nothing is off limits. If you want to have your legs replaced with giant springs, go right ahead. And you could save a bit of weight by having your skull lightened or replaced with a carbon fibre shell. The brain requires quite a bit of energy to run... i'm sure there are bits that could be removed that are surplus to requirements for an elite athlete.

One heart? I'm sure more blood could be pumped with two hearts, and maybe an extra lung to oxygenate that blood. Room in the abdomen could be made by removing everything else and then filling the blood with nutrients and cleaning it with machines before and after the race.

Steroids? Everyone's doing them anyway... lets see how far we can grow those muscles and shrink those testicles.

Then some genetic engineering once we get the hang of it. I think this idea was played out in Red Dwarf (or was it THHGTTG?) - genetically engineered soccer was over when one of the teams fielded a goalie who was just a great big rectangle of flesh the size of the goal, thus preventing the other team from ever being able to score.

Let the "market" sort it out. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031704)

If other athletes man up and instead of taking steroids start having their legs amputated then we'll know there's an advantage.

Cybernetic? (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031734)

Cybernetics [wikipedia.org] is a very particular term whose true meaning is far removed from its popular meaning. The technical meaning [wikipedia.org] of the term describes a system in terms of its sensors, feedback mechanisms, the interaction of autonomous actors, failure modes in complex systems, etc. The popular meaning is simply anything vaguely having to do with robotics and humans, and generally conflated with cyborg [wikipedia.org] . By either meaning of the term, though, I don't think it really applies in this case.

Pistorius' running prostheses are, essentially, arches of carbon fiber with rubber and track spikes at the "feet". They are fancy prostheses, but they are purely mechanical; no moving parts, even. There are no electronics, no control systems, no software. What is more, they are not even permanent attachments to his body (i.e., osseointegrated [wikipedia.org] ). He straps them on for training and racing, and the rest of the time wears conventional prostheses or nothing.

It is worth noting that an advanced prosthetic hand has more going for it: motors, feedback mechanisms to the user, muscle sensors providing inputs, control electronics and software. But I'm not sure that most people would look at such a person and say, "Yes, this person is a cybernetic organism," even in the popular meaning of the term. Such people are no more cybernetic (in the popular sense) than the person constantly punching away at their iPhone. There is a degree to which this artificial electromechanical computing device augments the user and allows them to interact with the world in ways they could not otherwise, but I think that we need a more stringent definition - a higher bar - otherwise the word started losing meaning the moment proto-humans picked up a bone and used it as a tool [youtube.com] .

Here's what worries me. (1)

JoeD (12073) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031784)

Athletes are under enormous amounts of pressure to win. For the Olympics, this is doubly true. Many have sacrificed a normal life for that single shot at winning a gold medal. There's also the unspoken carrot dangling in front of them: "Win a medal, get rich from endorsement contracts."

Is it any wonder that they start taking all sorts of performance-enhancing drugs, some with serious life-long consequences, just for that one chance at winning?

Now let's say that allowing artificial limbs into competition is allowed. I'd be willing to bet that someone would deliberately have their legs replaced.

It'd probably look like this:

There would be a news report of a tragic accident. A promising athlete, cut down just as they're about to hit their prime. They were running alongside a train track, but then tripped in front of the train. Both legs lost. It's a tragedy!

But wait! In an inspiring story, new artificial legs are fitted, allowing them to compete. And what a story! They triumph and win!

Limits of human power/endurance (1)

arikol (728226) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031842)

I don't think I'm alone in that I want to see the absolute limits of what a human can do. I don't really care about "cheating" (using unconventional or banned methods of gaining an advantage) as I want to see what's possible. The (few) undoped high class sportsmen are going to ruin their bodies as well, this kind of force just does that to the body eventually, but why not open up the regulations? Make an "ultimate" category so that people can stop pretending to not dope. I don't know of any sport without doping, so why pretend?

Give Pistorius hydraulically operated turbolegs and let him use horse steroids, I STILL want to see how fast he goes. Exactly because he goes above what I thought possible. No legs, and competes in running? I'd call that impressive. Competing against people WITH LEGS? Holy crap. Now, get him better legs, i want to see the hundred meters done in 8 seconds!

No advantage? (3, Insightful)

cmay (687134) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031858)

Something tells me he would be considerably slower without them.

South Africa.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37031942)

After bringing us the fastest female 800m (Caster Semenya) who isn't female, South Africa is bringing us the fastest 400m runner....without legs?

Advantage or not... (2)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032022)

Springs are not legs. Hence, he should not compete against athletes with legs.

There should be another class for athletes like him.

Perhaps also an open class, that allows any enhancements once can think of: drugs, surgery, doping, springs... game on.

YOU FAIL IT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37032036)

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Where's Unlimited? (1)

soupforare (542403) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032182)

When are we just going to get it over with and create 'unlimited' class competitions for athletics? Augmented or replaced limbs, oxygen doping, performance enhancing drugs, go nuts. Professionals do as much as they can get away with while they can get away with it anyway, let's regulate and expand it.

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