American track and field legend Michael Johnson is friends with South African double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius. And as we close in on the final days before the Opening Ceremony at this year’s London Games, one would think a friend would be shelling out nothing but stern support for another friend scheduled to compete.
But Johnson, the two-time gold medalist who holds the world record in the 400-meters – one of the events Pistorius is set to run – is stressing his concerns about the man commonly referred to as the “Blade Runner” having an unfair advantage over other able-bodied athletes. Having no lower limbs below the knees, the 25-year-old is assisted by two Cheetah Flex-Foot blades, J-shaped limbs that are 16 inches long and weigh a little over a pound each. It’s those blades that have stoked the debate on whether man-made material should be permitted, despite the South African’s disability being seen as a story of human inspiration.
From the London Telegraph:
“I think it is both,” Johnson said. “I know Oscar well, and he knows my position; my position is that because we don’t know for sure whether he gets an advantage from the prosthetics that he wears it is unfair to the able-bodied competitors.
“That is hard for a lot of people to take and to understand when you are talking about an athlete and an individual who has a disability.
“It is a great story, he is a great individual and he has been a great ambassador for athletes with a disability and for people, and how to overcome [that] and continue to strive.
“Oscar sees no limits; he has no fear when competing against able-bodied athletes. So it is hard for people to understand and to accept when you start to talk about whether or not he may have the advantage.”
Johnson went on to put Pistorius’ potential advantage into context. Pistorius’ personal best time in the 400 meters is 45.07 seconds. Johnson’s world record is 43.18 seconds, which he set in 1999 at the World Championships in Seville. Johnson believes 45.07 won’t be enough to get Pistorius to the Olympic final, but he agreed that the mark could be fast enough to beat other athletes, which could create controversy.
“Because his personal best is 45 seconds – and that is not enough to win medals – people generally will take the approach [that] he should be allowed to run, ‘let him run, it’s great.’
“The issue here, and how it has to be approached, is that it has to be approached not taking in to account any particular athlete – so this has to not be about Oscar Pistorius.
“I consider Oscar a friend of mine, but he knows I am against him running, because this is not about Oscar; it’s not about him as an individual, it is about the rules you will make and put in place for the sport which will apply to anyone, and not just Oscar. If it was just about Oscar my position would be: ‘Absolutely, let him run.’”
For more on Johnson’s comments, read the full article here.
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