by Michael Ho

Filed Under:
amputee, olympics, prosthetic

Where Are The Cyborg Olympics?

from the come-with-me-if-you-want-to-live dept

Earlier this week, double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius from South Africa was disqualified from participating in the 2008 Olympics by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Born without normal lower legs, Pistorius uses artificial carbon-fiber feet that are more efficient, and on top of that, his lack of real legs makes him lighter -- as well as possibly reducing his body's production of lactic acid from exercise. So with these advantages, the IAAF judged that his prosthetics were unfair to other competitors.

However, this ruling brings up very interesting questions surrounding where society draws the line between natural and artificial augmentations of the human body. Lasik and similar eye operations can enhance human vision for athletes beyond average eyesight. Blood doping doesn't technically introduce artificial substances into the body. Natural gene mutations are okay for now, but it's likely just a matter of time before genetic engineering becomes an issue. So at some point, the line between a 'natural' athletic competitor and an engineered contestant will need to be more clearly defined -- if only because it will become increasingly difficult to tell the two apart.

The modern Olympics were set up as a way to bring nations together (if you believe Wikipedia). But if the entertainment aspect of these games becomes more valuable, then in addition to the Robo Olympics and cyber games, the post-modern Olympics may need to offer a place for cyborgs if the Paralympic games aren't competitive enough.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    SpacePope, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 8:04am

    Alternative Olympics

    It's not robo-sized (yet) but the X-Games is basically the commercial alternative to the olympics. Its far more entertaining and as far as I know doesn't have much of a drug testing policy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Matt Bennett, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 8:18am

    I'll bet no one cares, but if he was BORN without the legs, he's not really an amputee, is he?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Hellsvilla, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 8:21am


    No, he was born with legs. They were hideously deformed and were amputated so as to not drag down the rest of his developing body.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Jim Christie, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 8:26am

    Re: Amputee Oscar Pistorius

    FYI, Matt and everyone who wonders... Oscar was born without the fibula bones in his lower legs. Doctors and parents decided he wouldn't be able to navigate through life with just the tibias supporting his weight. They'd fracture constantly... so when he was 11 months old, the legs were amputated below the knoee. He learned all his locomotion (ie. walking and running) on prosthetics and played sports, including rugby and track.
    But he is, indeed, an amputee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    chicken, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    I feel bad for the athlete, but I tend to agree with the decision. I wonder what the committee ruling would be for an amputee with no arms who wanted to run. Would the lack of arm weight give him an unfair advantage?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 9:23am


    and less wind resistance

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    comboman, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 9:52am


    I doubt it, runners use their arms as counter-balance to their legs. Try running with your arms held straight down at your sides. What we really need is an all drug Olympics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Mike, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    We don't need another farce.

    The olympics is already a huge joke... why would we want to fund MORE of this garbage? I mean come on. How many athletes have ruined their countries reputations already at the Olympics? Nevermind the money that gets spent by communities hosting the games, that should go back into the community instead of on a farcical display of steroid enhanced pseudosports? In Vancouver they quietly move the poor people out of affordable housing in order to renovate then rent the properties at higher rents to tourists? This whole thing should get zero tax dollars and be completely privately funded if they want to continue it. I'm not even going to comment on bladerunners "quest for publicity" as he was told there was little to know chance he would be allowed to compete a long long time ago, this whole thing is just for the spotlight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    boost, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 10:06am

    Re: Alternative Olympics

    The x-games, also, doesn't much involve events that test an athlete's strength and endurance. Those are important aspects to the events in the X-games but not so much as skill and, in my opinoin, bravery. Therefore, there isn't much need to test for drugs, aside from the kind that might alter your mental state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Boost, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Re: We don't need another farce.

    I tend to agree here. The Olympics are already less about sport and more about money. Do we really need something else like this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    JB, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 10:45am

    Everybody will want a pair

    If he is allowed to run in the Olympics and he performs well, it could start an epidemic of athletes having their legs amputated so they can compete using carbon-fiber appendages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    tom, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 11:27am


    Just one more case of "we need two classes of sports"! Just like in motorsports, we need an open and stock class. Human modification is inevitable, and we need to acknowledge that. Drugs, steroids, prosthetics, you name it. It will happen! I personally have implants, and I consider myself mildly modified! The human body is simply a canvas; we have the ability to accomplish anything!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    David, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 11:40am

    reminds me of this saturday night live skit......

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Deja Vu, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 12:45pm

    Re: reminds me of this saturday night live skit...

    Reminds of post #7 above.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Jason Schlosberg, Jan 19th, 2008 @ 5:51am


    Have you read the Cyborg Handbook? It provides some great factual and philosophical insight regarding this issue. I read it as part of my university english lit/film class, The Posthuman. My resulting thesis paper was entitled Technodarwinism, which I defined as the plateauing of natural human evolutionary development due to the diminishing impact, or eventual removal, of natural selection caused by increased technological reliance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jan 19th, 2008 @ 11:01pm

    All Sport Is Artificial

    All sporting contents are subject to artificial constraints in the interest of "fairness". Why do they use a starting gun in running races? Why not countdown lights à la drag races? So the race becomes in part a test of speed of reflexes. But then they arbitrarily decide that no normal human's reflexes can possibly respond in less than 125 ms. So anybody who starts running quicker than that after the gun goes off is deemed to have "jumped the gun".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Jezsik, Jan 21st, 2008 @ 8:01am

    Paralympics? Big deal

    What we need is Pharmalympics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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