Does South African athlete Oscar Pistorius really have any grounds to object to Brazilian Alan Oliveira’s Paralympic gold medal performance in the T44 200m on Sunday?
Is the International Paralympic Committee regulating its competitors tightly enough?
When it was announced that Pistorius had been selected for the South African team heading to the London Games there was a predictably mixed reaction. Whilst an inspiring role model to many, he was a highly controversial inclusion for others.
To his detractors, many of whom have been accused of failing to 'embrace the Olympic spirit', Pistorius, who runs on carbon-fibre blades, should only have been allowed to compete in either the Olympics or the Paralympics – but not both.
Their argument has been strengthened after Pistorius took issue with the length of Oliveira’s own longer blades after he pipped the favourite on the final straight in the 200m showdown on Sunday.
So why should Pistorius bite his tongue and accept being beaten on this occasion?
Firstly, if he had managed to run his own world record time (set in the semi-finals) he would have won by a convincing margin – so there is already an implication of sour grapes from the South African.
Secondly, Pistorius was competing on shorter blades (meaning shorter leg strides) than his Brazilian counterpart as the South African’s blades had to meet the preceding Olympic requirements in order to compete fairly against able-bodied athletes.
If he was only allowed to run in either the Olympics or the Paralympics, this whole debate could and should have been avoided.
The increased media spotlight on Pistorius due to his high profile and sponsorship in a sense justifies his reaction in light of losing his title but he cannot complain with the completely legal fashion in which Oliveira won his race. His misgivings should be aimed directly at the body in charge if anyone at all.
Pistorius’ experiences at the Paralympics raise questions about the type of equipment used by the athletes.
Blake Leeper of the USA was running in the same race as Pistorius and had to stump up $30, 000 for his own blades. Fortunately Leeper received a grant in order to gain the equipment but most other athletes would not have been so lucky.
So does this mean that Paralympic sport is becoming like Formula 1 racing where the richest teams can afford the best equipment and subsequently have a better chance of winning? There needs to be a tougher regulation by the authorities in order to ensure this scenario doesn’t happen.
There has to be a fair playing field for all the competitors to ensure bickering over a certain athlete’s equipment does not grab the headlines over the achievements of the athletes themselves, as has been the case for Oliveira.
It says a lot about the issue that "prosthetic limbs" was trending on Twitter and not the name of the gold medalist.
Andrew Binner is a freelance journalist contributing to Al Jazeera. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewBinner and www.andrewbinner.com
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