Re: Pistonius

1

Yeah, it's a bummer, but there's no way to make it fair. Hitting the point right on the line between 'not fully compensating for the injury' and 'unfair advantage' just doesn't seem possible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:51 PM
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The only thing wrong with this post is that everyone will agree.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:51 PM
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ogged resumes his place as the Meanest Poster On Unfogged.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:51 PM
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The only thing wrong with this post is that everyone will agree.

FL is Old Wittgenstein!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:53 PM
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I don't know if y'all noticed, but they're not actually giving him a substantial advantage over anyone else yet. He still can't run the qualifying time.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:54 PM
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re 1: I think that there's no line between the two; since they're orthogonal we have weird cases like this.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:55 PM
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What's all the fuss about? I'll bet he can still beat the pants off those wheelchair guys, fair and square.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:56 PM
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They shouldn't let him compete at the olympics. They should let him hold the `worlds fastest man' title if he can win it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:57 PM
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9

Let him run NASCAR.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:58 PM
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"I feel that it is my responsibility," Pistorius told The Associated Press, "on behalf of myself and all other disabled athletes, to stand firmly and not allow one organization to inhibit our ability to compete using the very tools without which we simply cannot walk, let alone run. I will not stand down."


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:58 PM
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In other news, Obama's favorite show is The Wire and Omar his favorite character.

Swoon.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:59 PM
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He should go on the kickboxing circuit instead.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 1:59 PM
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I was about to ask about the [sic], and then it vanished. Is that what happens when you make w-lfs-n a front page poster, and he's online more than you are?


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:00 PM
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I actually don't agree. The thing is, any prostheses that will allow him to run (i.e. are designed for running, not walking) could be judged as giving him an advantage over regular-leg people. So, like the quote Labs gives in 10, either he can't run at all, or he can run so good he's too good to compete. I say bullshit, and let the man run. If he can qualify, which, like I said, he's not even able to do yet.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:01 PM
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5, 6: Well, yeah. He's still got a substantial disadvantage starting (he can't start off blocks, he has to just stand up and run), which he makes up for by being faster after the start. There's probably some exact distance at which he's running the same time he would have run if he had never lost his original feet, but there's no way to tell what it is.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:02 PM
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Ogged, you anti-cyborgist. You'd turn away the Six Million Dollar Man, too, wouldn't you?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:02 PM
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All I had to see was the author and the first sentence, and I knew what the conclusion would be.
I'm sure they'd be happy to let him run if he didn't use the springy things.
11- Racist.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:03 PM
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So far I'm not all that impressed by Omar. But I have only seen five episodes.

I agree with the post, though there is part of me that keeps saying 'dude has no legs! and runs faster than most people with legs! shit!' and wishes that he'd get the headlines without having to try to go for the Olympic games.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:04 PM
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18: you really have to hear him sing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:06 PM
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runs faster than most people with legs

Okay, so he's pretty fast. Apparently, his times would have earned him gold at the 2008 Olympics. If he were a woman.

Solution: sex change.

On a related note, I wonder what the Olympic Committee thinks about M-to-F transsexuals competing in women's events? Probably against, I would imagine.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:07 PM
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I guess if there were a bunch of disabled track-and-field types who could qualify, you could always control the equipment like, well most sports do. But as LB notes, really really hard to quantify.

What we need to do is take a group of world-class runners early in their careers, cut off their legs, give them say 3 years to heal and retrain. Then you adjust the prosthetics until their times are consistent. That'd do the trick.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:08 PM
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I was about to ask about the [sic]

It's an improvising collective at Stanford under the direction of Mark Applebaum.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:08 PM
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Don't they still do chromosome tests to make sure there aren't any? This was a big deal, in terms of how much effort got put into enforcing it, at least until recently.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:08 PM
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23- I imagine people with no chromosomes are at a severe disadvantage.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:10 PM
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Oh, man, I just had an awful thought. I suppose competition in disabled sports gets much stiffer during/after a war -- all those healthy young athletes who have lost limbs. Fuck.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:10 PM
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23->20


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:10 PM
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11: Everyone knows that.

I disagree with the post. The man doesn't *have* legs; he is physically incapable of competing on the exact same terms as everyone else. He wants to run with the prosthetics that he uses as replacement legs. Equal /= exactly the same; in this case, equal means "his particular replacement legs." Saying it's unfair is as meaningless as saying it's unfair that, say, X athlete has more money for coaching and (say) hyperbaric oxygen chambers or whatever than Y athlete, so X athlete can't compete.

If this opens up the slippery slope to a day when the olympics will be dominated by disabled athletes, so be it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:11 PM
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Oscar Pistorius should switch his sport to swimming, and he should be able to compete in the Olympics using flipper-shaped prostheses.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:11 PM
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25: Particularly this one, with the improved ratio of disabled to dead.

27: Can't wait until arguments about robotic aids replace arguments about endemic drug use in sports.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:13 PM
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Maybe he should only be allowed to compete if he uses his day-to-day prosthetic feet, and not the fancy ones.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:13 PM
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21 almost gets it exactly right. If athletes with legs feel that this guy has an unfair advantage, they are, of course, free to have their legs amputated in order to be fitted with prosthetics like his.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:13 PM
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20, 23: There's a Canadian snowboarder (I believe) who is MtoF trans. There was drama surrounding this -- she wins gold a lot -- from the woman who comes in second (gross, unkind comments). But I guess it isn't Olympic competition.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:14 PM
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I think 28 is the answer to 27. He could have his prostheses redesigned to make his stride length six inches longer, and win everything, at which point there's no sense in having a race at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:14 PM
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27: To my mind, it isn't about 'unfair' or 'equal to real legs' as it is that his prosthetics are so different that it's practically a different sport.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:14 PM
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30 points out how silly 27 is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:14 PM
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Eh, it's just one small step closer to the day when all sports are run by the WWF, which is coming one way or another. To get a world-class athlete, you start with a freak of nature and then add all the technological bells and whistles you can get away with. Bionic legs may be a difference in degree, but that's all they are.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:15 PM
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25: I have been under the impression that the US para/whatever/lympic teams have indeed had an unprecedented infusion of talent due to the war.


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:15 PM
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31 is basically what I was getting at.

besides, think of how much better UFC would be.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:15 PM
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39

if he uses his day-to-day prosthetic feet

Or pirate peg legs. That would be impressive.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:15 PM
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I'm going to get a lead prosthetic hand and be a boxer.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:15 PM
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27: Well, what about ogged's jetpacks, then? If this runner can be aided by mechanical devices, I bet similar devices could be designed for those who retain the use of their legs.

This guy is certainly a legitimate competitor - just not in the contest he wants to enter.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:15 PM
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28: "flipper-shaped prostheses" s/b "20-horse Johnson"


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:16 PM
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33: I don't think this is the case. I haven't read the article carefully, but surely there is going to be a physical limitation on how long the stride can be based on what the rest of his body is actually capable of, propulsion- and balance-wise.

And again, so what? Fine, he wins everything, the other people come in second. Why is this a problem? Isn't the "that's not fair" argument sort of like the anti-affirmative action argument, in that it seems to be assuming that the other athletes are *entitled* to first place even before the race is run?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:16 PM
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32: How do they deal with intersex? It's not exactly uncommon.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:16 PM
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Trans athletes are allowed in the Olympics.

The International Olympics Committee officially changed its rules for transsexual people in 2004. To compete, an athlete must wait for two years after sex-reassignment surgery.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:17 PM
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"20-horse Johnson"

No, that slows you down.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:17 PM
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47 and 35 comment on the function of earlier comments.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:18 PM
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I haven't read the article carefully, but surely

Perfect.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:18 PM
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44:

More recently, Brazilian Edinanci Silva competed in the women's Olympic judo competition in 1996, finishing seventh. She caused controversy when she revealed that upon reaching puberty, she also had both male and female sex organs. But Silva had her male reproductive organs removed three years prior to competing, and ultimately was allowed to continue in women's judo.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:19 PM
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This guy is certainly a legitimate competitor - just not in the contest he wants to enter.

So what you're saying is that he can't compete in the "regular" olympics no matter what the state of his prostheses? Talk about "unfair". This decision is basically: you are a double amputee, therefore, you can't compete. The fuck?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:19 PM
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41: Jetpacks are clearly not the structural equivalent of legs. This is like saying "well, what if we had artificial wombs? Would you be pro-choice then?" It's essentially a complete change of subject with a ridiculous hypothetical.

I'm completely serious that he should be allowed to compete. What, you folks are worried about a sudden influx of paraplegic sprinters? Because, what, it's not fair to the able-bodied if the gimps get access to all the cool toys? Gimme a break.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:19 PM
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Via Firedoglake:

The internet is not about technology, it's about relationships.


(Quote from Phil Madsen, Jesse Ventura's webmaster found on Page 275 of The First Campaign by Garrett Graff.)

That hurts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:20 PM
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B do you know anything about what a racing prosthetic leg looks like, or how it works? I'm going to guess no. Hint: it doesn't work like a real leg.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:20 PM
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50: No, he can compete in the regular Olympics, if the regular Olympics takes up his sport. Sifu gets this right in 9, though: if his sport is mechanically aided racing, he really ought to be in NASCAR.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:21 PM
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50: Exactly. In order to safeguard first place for the the able-bodied, we have to ban the disabled from competing at all.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:22 PM
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Tanya Harding would totally be at a disadvantage against this guy.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:22 PM
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This decision is basically: you are a double amputee, therefore, you can't compete.

The thing is, though, I think that's the right answer. I mean, it's the right answer for a double above the knee amputee who can't wear prosthetics, so he's in a wheelchair. A fit wheelchair racer would win any footrace there is, but it wouldn't make sense to call it a competition.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:22 PM
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Like I keep saying, the guy can't even qualify yet. Suppose he manages to qualify, and wins. What's the problem? Is that he wouldn't have been such a great athlete if he'd never had his legs amputated, and grown up with legs like everyone else? There's no way to know that. Plus, there's some evidence that he has to be stronger in other areas to compensate; the graphic says that he has to generate twice as much power from the hip.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:22 PM
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Isn't the "that's not fair" argument sort of like the anti-affirmative action argument, in that it seems to be assuming that the other athletes are *entitled* to first place even before the race is run?

Except that the whole sports thing is built around pretending that the competition is fundamentally fair, whatever that means. Take that away and you have entertainment rather than sports. Which you do anyway, but people value their illusions.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:22 PM
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Jetpacks are clearly not the structural equivalent of legs.

In what sense are metal legs the "structural equivalent" of legs?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:23 PM
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27: The hell with sports, I see these various medical/drug "slippery slopes" as harbingers of a coming wave of medical and genetic enhancement controversies that will blow away everyone's concept of what it means to be human in 20-25 years. Fortunately as a species we have developed a very robust and reasoned process for managing decisions about fundamental questions involving ethics, society and biology.

Question: When are the last Olympics in their current form held and why is it the last?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:23 PM
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In order to safeguard first place for the the able-bodied

Your talent isn't bitching, it's missing the point.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:24 PM
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Canadian snowboarders also proved something that apo and I have long known: Marijuana is a performance-enhancing substance. Apo and I couldn't have accomplished what we've done without it.

A lot of sports have benefitted from enormously improved equipment -- polevaulting and archery are so changed that old rcords are incomparable to modern records.

I think that abolishing sports is probably the easiest solution, or maybe picking the winners randomly at each level from the top ten finishers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:24 PM
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A fit wheelchair racer would win any footrace there is

Yeah, but a wheelchair is like a jetpack, not like the prostheses Pistorius has. It's a totally different kind of device. My argument is that the prostheses are similar enough to regular legs to make it equivalent.

Anyway, people with above-the-knee amputations can wear prostheses, too.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:24 PM
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53: Obviously it doesn't work like a real leg. It couldn't. Because the man lacks the nerves and muscles necessary to control a real leg, including the ability to balance on the fucking thing.

I clicked through and skimmed the article. Effectively, he is using replacement legs. That technology can make them better than real legs is an advantage to him, sure, just like it's an advantage to the able bodied that, say, they don't run the risk of having the airline lose one of their legs in shipping.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:25 PM
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B isn't trolling this thread, is she?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:25 PM
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the structural equivalent of legs.

That's the thing -- why are his prosthetics more 'the structural equivalent of legs' than a wheelchair? They're both muscle-powered means of transport, but they're very structurally and functionally different from biological legs.

(I can imagine a science-fictony future where you could design prosthetics that would be structurally and functionally equivalent to legs -- you wouldn't wear them other than for sports because if you could do that, you could make something better -- and then competition would be fair. But not these.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:26 PM
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Labs is gonna love this thread.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:26 PM
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Fortunately as a species we have developed a very robust and reasoned process blog comment sections for managing decisions about fundamental questions involving ethics, society and biology.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:28 PM
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64: different how? In that it uses the principle of the wheel rather than that of the spring? A machine is a machine is a machine. If he can run, can the other runners use these? Exactly the same type of machine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:28 PM
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My argument is that the prostheses are similar enough to regular legs to make it equivalent.

Yeah, this comes down to a point of factual disagreement. I don't think they are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:28 PM
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I'm coming around to the B-leblanc point of view in support of mechanical aids for one participant in an athletic competition. Especially for the NFL playoffs.

Next week's New England game would be a lot more fair if the Chargers' defensive line could use knives or pistols.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:29 PM
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I have to get back to work now. It's too bad you all hate the disabled and want them to stay in the special people olympics where they belong.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:29 PM
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44: Interesting. That's a pretty extreme case, but in total the stats are something like 1 in 1000 - 2000 births iirc; so I would think a lot of people could be clipped by that if you took a strong line against it in Olympics or whatever.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:29 PM
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66: quit baiting her, asshole.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:29 PM
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He's competing at something other than running, and he's the best in the world at that thing, and I'd really be very interested in seeing him compete against some top runners in an event that explicitly allows various types of equipment which aren't allowed in running. It would be like when Michael Johnson raced Donovan Bailey (in an event different from the one that either of them traditionally participated in, is my analogy), except hopefully it wouldn't suck.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:30 PM
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Fortunately as a species we have developed a very robust and reasoned process for managing decisions about fundamental questions involving ethics, society and biology.

Right. Let's kill all them Muties now.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:30 PM
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Non-English speakers should be allowed to compete in the National Spelling Bee using translation dictionaries, because without them they wouldn't be able speak English. If having a dictionary disadvantages the other competitors, they should just try living somewhere they can't speak the local tongue, the whiners.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:30 PM
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76: Or when Jesse Owens raced horses. Woo-hoo! The good old days.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:31 PM
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62: In what sense am I missing the point? The concern here is that his prosthesis gives him an "unfair advantage" over the other runners. I call bullshit: the other runners have an unfair advantage by virtue of their *having legs.* Now, this difference is, if you will, god's will rather than man's, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it, so fair enough: the legless cannot run. Sorry, folks.

But if someone comes along and invents something so that the legless *can* run--not just in a gimpy, oh, good for you! way, but seriously compete at a world class level--then crying about how suddenly they have an unfair advantage strikes me as the essence of entitlement.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:31 PM
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What if his prosthetic legs featured rollerblades? Man, he'd be fast!


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:31 PM
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crying about how suddenly they have an unfair advantage

Still missing the point.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:33 PM
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Sifu, there's a superfluous comma in 75. Also, you misspelled "biting".


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:33 PM
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I'm at a disadvantage as a jockey because 6' tall and kind of heavy, so it's only fair that I get to drive my car instead.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:33 PM
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What's the point then, apo, if it's not about possible advantage gained from the use of fancy prostheses? Enlighten me, 'cause I'm confused.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:34 PM
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72 A lot less boring, certainly.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:34 PM
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I love how Apostropher is just shaking his head and tsking, "Still missing the point," instead of offering up The Point.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:34 PM
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B: Would you at least allow those handicapped with flesh-and-blood legs to compete in their own, separate, inferior competitions if they wanted to?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:34 PM
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85: the point is that the sport Pistorious competes in and the sport able bodied sprinters compete in are not the same sport, because they are doing different things using different equipment.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:36 PM
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But if someone comes along and invents something so that the legless *can* run--not just in a gimpy, oh, good for you! way, but seriously compete at a world class level--then crying about how suddenly they have an unfair advantage strikes me as the essence of entitlement.

I don't have a problem with him getting an unfair advantage when we're both running to catch the bus. It's a simple matter of what he's doing not being the same sporting event.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:36 PM
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78: Apparently English-language Scrabble is a national sport in Thailand, and many champions come from there.

Link


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:37 PM
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A machine is a machine is a machine.

I see. So a computer is a hinge is an internal combustion engine. Thanks for clearing that up.

78: Not speaking English is in no way equivalent to being a double amputee, Apo, come on.

I'd really be very interested in seeing him compete against some top runners in an event that explicitly allows various types of equipment which aren't allowed in running.

"I'd be perfectly happy to have you people attend your own colleges. It's too bad that you don't have any colleges, but, well, what are you gonna do?" Come on. "Various types of equipment that aren't allowed in running." You're proposing that we invent a "sport" that involves, say, monster trucks vs. pogo sticks vs. rollerblades, and that strikes you as somehow more fair or sporting or a genuine athletic competition than letting *one* man with prosthetic legs run in the olympics?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:38 PM
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*one* man

Are you familiar with the word "precedent"?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:38 PM
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B will defend to her dying breath the right for paraplegic sprinters to have sex in public bathrooms.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:39 PM
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Wow, is she!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:39 PM
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Deafness is not a disability.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:39 PM
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89, 90. What the fuck ever. No one would even care if he weren't dangerously close to being able to qualify. And that just doesn't seem right! It's not that it's a different sport, it's that he happens to be really good at it.

If someone with a prosthetic hand wanted to compete in the 400 m, would you call that a "different sport"? What about if they had a lung transplant of a sweet-ass lung?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:40 PM
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88: I am not arguing against the special olympics.

I am going to declare that since the arguments being offered are things like "I'm too fat to be a jockey so I want to drive a car in a horserace" and "this is like letting non-English speakers enter spelling bees with computers!" and "you're not getting the point but I'm not going to say what the point is or explain what, specifically, it is that you're saying that's wrong"--that since these are the arguments being offered, I've won.

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the ganders.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:40 PM
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I see. So a computer is a hinge is an internal combustion engine. Thanks for clearing that up.

In that all of them are more similar to each other than they are to an organism, yes. But feel free to keep intentionally misunderstanding my points.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:41 PM
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I've won

Still not getting the point.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:41 PM
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At least one world-class Scrabble competitor did not know English well.

Panupol Sujjayakor

The Thai, of course, get a rally workout learning to spell their own names.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:42 PM
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Hint: it doesn't work like a real leg.

In fact, it works and looks almost exactly like an outboard motor. How the guy gets it to work on land is a triumph of the human spirit.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:43 PM
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It's not that it's a different sport, it's that he happens to be really good at it.

No, it's that it's a different sport. It uses different muscles and different equipment to achieve a completely different goal.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:43 PM
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I don't know if 98 is true. What if bitchphd tried to imagine a perfectly analogous situation, and she couldn't do it either? Then she'd lose the argument too!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:43 PM
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This sounds vaguely like the plot of an episode of that really bad futuristic Los Angeles lawyer show that was on CBS a while back.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:43 PM
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Goosenecks. Mmmm.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:43 PM
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89: I see. So all the sprinters in the race have to wear exactly the same kind of shoes and clothing, right?

94: As long as the only arguments against it are "that's not fair to all the people who get all the privileges 99% of the time!" yeah, I probably will.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:44 PM
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achieve a completely different goal

Which goal is that, exactly? Seems like they are both trying to get somewhere in a jiffy.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:44 PM
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I think the best analogy so far has been if this guy had another pair of prostheses with rollerblades on them. Should he be able to compete with those?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:44 PM
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I'm finding B and LeBlanc hilariously wrong here even though I pretty much agree with them. Not sure what to make of that--am I sexist or do I hate the disabled?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:45 PM
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84: Sifu Tweety*, defender of strict rule enforcement in all things sport, is right.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:45 PM
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am I sexist or do I hate the disabled?

Both! That was easy. Next!


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:45 PM
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104: When I start making arguments about how "other people just don't get it" or "it's just like this completely unrelated analogy," you all have a field day jumping my shit for being irrational.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:45 PM
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88: I am not arguing against the special olympics.

Well great. Then we have comity. All the people with mechanical aids can be in one competition, and the flesh-and-blood folks who can't compete can have their own, slower and inferior competition.

Which, of course, is the current arrangement.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:45 PM
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108: I see we're arguing with at least one person who thinks it would be OK for competitors to use a car.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:46 PM
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Feminists feel a close affinity to amputees for a variety of reasons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:46 PM
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I'm finding 110 pretty confusing. Is this some sort of quantum coherence thing? If I observe your position, will it suddenly become non-contradictory?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:46 PM
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am I sexist or do I hate the disabled?

I say: No need to choose.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:46 PM
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I'm a bit muddled on this. Ogged seems (oh, hell, is) right, but I was on Casey Martin's side back in the day.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:46 PM
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Should comment threads that feature analogies be able to compete against threads that abide by the analogy ban?


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:47 PM
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108: yes, just like bicycle riders, cross country skiers, rollerbladers, snowboarders, windsurfers, swimmers, and so on and so on.

107: to within a certain degree of similarity, yes. They could not, for instance, wear those spring-shoe things I posted about earlier, nor could they request that all the other runners in the race wear boots.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:47 PM
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This thread needs some Donna Haraway


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:47 PM
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Casey Martin's case was a much closer call. If he'd had a spring-loaded arm, it would have been different.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:48 PM
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So all the sprinters in the race have to wear exactly the same kind of shoes and clothing, right?

I think this would be more reasonable than allowing the prosthetic guy in.

The whole point of sports is to fine-tune the competition and make sure you're measuring the exact same thing from each person. (If you're measuring a different thing from a person, you need a different competition to address that.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:48 PM
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The whole point of sports is to fine-tune the competition and make sure you're measuring the exact same thing from each person. (If you're measuring a different thing from a person, you need a different competition to address that.)

This is exactly the thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:49 PM
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If someone with a prosthetic hand wanted to compete in the 400 m, would you call that a "different sport"?

Completely fine

What about if they had a lung transplant of a sweet-ass lung?

Probably not as big a deal in the 400m, but the marathoners would have a real problem with it.

Tweety nailed the crux of the problem when he pointed out that if Pistonius can compete with his carbon-fiber spring legs, all athletes can compete with the same dealiehoos strapped to their calves. That's a totally different sport, and while it would be cool, it's not the same as letting just one guy in with that advantage.

Whether or not he has a good life outside the sporting arena doesn't matter. Really ugly athletes don't get spotted 0.10 seconds on their 200m time just because their endorsements will suck and no one will ever love them.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:49 PM
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B, isn't it time for you to urinate? During the boring sports thread? Remember Tycho.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:49 PM
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97: Read through the slide show linked up thread, and the analysis of the muscles used and such, and it doesn't look like it's really the same competition. He uses 25% less energy because more of the strike is transferred through where the ankle joint would be.

The other thing is that any game has arbitrary rules. That arguably might be the whole point of a game, to make things artificially harder for yourself by restricting the ways in which you're allowed to get to the goal. Can't hit the ball with your hands in soccer, even if it's more efficient. Can't wear flippers in swimming. Can't use a pogo stick in the high jump. Men don't race women, even though I'm sure there are some men who would win the women's events. An arbitrary line that says 'no non-natural modifications' isn't any worse (or more defensible) than the rest of those lines.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:49 PM
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116: Emerson would win this hotly contested thread if only his wit were produced without artificial aids.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:50 PM
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79: I don't know anything about the Owens versus a horse race, other than that it happened. In particular, I don't know, but think I take from your comment (not sure though), that it was invidiously racially coded. But racing against horses wasn't all that uncommon in the late 1800s and early 20th century, reading about early baseball players you'll not irregularly see stories about the speedsters among them having a race against a horse as a gimmick.

92: I'd be perfectly happy to have you people attend your own colleges. It's too bad that you don't have any colleges, but, well, what are you gonna do?

So I saw this coming and didn't go with my original argument that the governing board of a sport can (where by can I mean should not be criticized for) make any standardizing rules it pleases, insofar as what it's trying to do is maintain a level of competitiveness. But it's mind-boggling to think that such rules can't be made as far they regard the equipment one is and isn't allowed to use while participating in the competition.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:51 PM
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My guess is that an amputee might do very well in certain sorts of gymnastics routines.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:51 PM
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But if someone comes along and invents something so that the legless *can* run--

But that IS the point. Whatever he's doing, it's not "running".


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:54 PM
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And yes, most equipment is standardized to a certain degree. I'll use fencing, because I'm a nerd, but in Olympic fencing, the sensors on the ends of a foil have to be within a certain pressure tolerance. The bend in the foil has to be within a certain range. The blade has to be FIE-certified.

A figure skate manufacturer designed a boot that allows the ankle to flex, rather than hold it fixed, which allegedly provides the skater with a greater ability to bend her leg and point her toe, which can improve her jumps. It had to be approved before it was permitted in high-level competition.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:56 PM
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117: What I think is that there isn't a coherent concept of "fair competition" that can be used to judge whether or not prosthetic legs are different in kind from all the stuff that makes a world class athlete a world class athlete and me not. You can say that fairness requires that everybody compete under the same rules, but that doesn't do you any good in an "is too"/"is not" contest like the one in this thread. So I'm kind of with B and LeBlanc in thinking that it would be kind of cool to have Olympic sprints all won by amputees with prosthetic legs rather than people with freakish collections of fast-twitch muscle fibers, but I still find them hilariously wrong to be arguing so vehemently that of course that's fair competition.

I contend that possesses at least my usual quantum of coherence, but make no grander claim.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 2:59 PM
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Or take the many extensive debates about what kind of materials should be allowed in swimming, let alone how long people should be able to dolphin kick. Or the controversy over whether sprinting world records should be allowed based on the track surface. Or the controversy over the allowable keel shape in the America's cup. Keep in mind these are all incredibly minor differences compared to, say, one athlete using his calf muscles to provide the spring necessary to get a good stride and another athelete using his hips and quadraceps to flex a carbon fiber spring. It's a different sport.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:00 PM
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133: On a similar note, hasn't there been a bunch of controversy over disallowing certain kinds of bikes, skates etc for Olympic events (clap skates and 'super' bikes, I think)? It seems to me that this is similar.


Posted by: the Other Paul | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:00 PM
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So I'm kind of with B and LeBlanc in thinking that it would be kind of cool to have Olympic sprints all won by amputees with prosthetic legs rather than people with freakish collections of fast-twitch muscle fibers

But the B-LeBlanc position also implicitly bans flesh-and-blood competition. After all, how do we get the meat-people to participate if they can run traditional races against each other?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:02 PM
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The thing is, while we do have rules about equipment that everyone uses (Cala's figure skates example is a good one), we do allow for natural variance. We don't require that all athletes in a particular event weigh the same, or are the same height, or the same race. Some of them have much bigger muscles than others, some have greater lung capacity, some only have one testicle.

But when that natural variance requires someone to have prostheses so that they can even compete, we say "aw hell naw?" I think that sucks.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:04 PM
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I think I have a good grasp on what "fair" means. "Running" on the other hand seems a very arbitrarily defined concept. Part of the problem is that there is no larger purpose that you can use to guide the conceptual refinement. You can say that for scientific purposes, time is what clocks measure, because you know that in physics everything must point towards testable conclusions. But why do we say that something counts as "running" and other things not here?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:04 PM
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Ask a NASCAR guy about restrictor plates in superspeedway races, for instance. Even in that mechanical sport, mechanical contrivances are highly regulated, and obviously should be.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:05 PM
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114: So "separate but equal" is okay when we're talking about disabled people. And counerfactual statements like "the able-bodied can have their own slower and inferior competition which is the current arrangement" are okay, too.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:06 PM
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We don't require that all athletes in a particular event weigh the same,

Except in boxing and wrestling, where it makes a difference in performance.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:07 PM
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137: No more than current rules implicit ban people who have the wrong body type and/or lack access to training and support.

But yeah, the bottom line is that rules are designed to provide entertaining competition, and the non-amputees have the amputees badly enough outnumbered that we're not going to get a rule that makes the sprints less entertaining for the majority. Which is not, in the great scheme of things, a big deal.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:07 PM
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So "separate but equal" is okay when we're talking about disabled people.

Or women: we gender segregate sports, though I think a couple of guys have tried to compete on the LPGA.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:07 PM
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What about amputees in beauty pageants? Seems to me that they might have an advantage there as well.


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:07 PM
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It seems to me that the concept of "what the sport is" is pretty convenient for the disabled-haters. So, here's a hypo. What if Pistorius was a soccer player? The "sport" in soccer is about running around and scoring goals. Let's just say that he does indeed get some running advantage from the prostheses. Do we not allow him to compete?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:07 PM
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140: This is pretty much true about equipment in all sports, isn't it?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:07 PM
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135: Despite my tweak above I am right with ST on this one. Another instance is Bob Seagren not getting to use a slightly advance pole in the pole vault at th '72 Olympics. NASCAR is now a weird set of "arbitrary" rules on engines and every other feature of a car. (pf's preview pwnage acknowledged)

All of these technology advances are potential bifurcation points to spin off new competitions.
I see drug-free and drug-enhanced bifurcating in the next 10 years.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:08 PM
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But when that natural variance requires someone to have prostheses so that they can even compete, we say "aw hell naw?" I think that sucks.

Kinda circular, innit?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:09 PM
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148: The same is true of bicycles for bike racing, balls for most (all?) ball sports, clubs/bats/raquets ... typically official rules constrain you to play with inferior (performing) equipment from what is possible, in the name of consistency.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:10 PM
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125: I thought the point of sports was to see who was the fastest, and that we tended to accept that some people are, in fact, especially gifted or have had better training and that therefore we are not "measuring" *how* they do it, but who gets across the finishing line first.

Whatever he's doing, it's not "running".

I see. What is it, then?

the B-LeBlanc position also implicitly bans flesh-and-blood competition

No it doesn't. How does letting *one* disabled runner compete ban *every able-bodied runner*?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:10 PM
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Sport valorizes bodies. The Platonic qualities of athletic competition revolve around a sense that the bodies in competition approach perfections of forms that we share, and to me the debate turns on what the sporting audience identifies as the perfectible normal body. NPH is right that while Pistonius looks like a special case, upon closer examination the fast-twitch muscles are outliers as well.

This is of a piece with those Reasonoids who have proposed an all-tweaked baseball league to play alongside the no-drugs league. I say, let the superabled disabled play alongside for a generation while we get a critical mass of techno-enhanced athletes, then let them find a dividing line for a league.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:10 PM
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142: Fair point, but height makes a difference in running (see the comments about stride above) and we don't regulate that shit.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:10 PM
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138: . We don't require that all athletes in a particular event weigh the same, or are the same height

But, really, we do. You will never find a 250lb bicycle racer or a 130lb lineman. The only people who get to compete in sports at an elite level are people who have the luck to have been born with very specific, very unusual body types that allow them to exceed in a way that 99% of people in the world cannot. It's not just double amputees that can't run in the 400m olympic sprint, it's everybody, give or take about two dozen very unusual people, who have been born with very unusual gifts and have worked unusually hard and long to perfect those gifts. Pistorius fits both of those criteria (an exceptional physical specimen, an incredibly hard worker), except the sport he excels in is not the same as the sport that any other Olypmic sprinter excels at.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:10 PM
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I think the analogy upthread to flippers in swimming is most apt. If an amputee swimmer had prothesis with webbing that allowed him to use 25% less energy with each kick, I doubt there would be serious disagreement that he shouldn't be able to use the prothesis: he's not doing the same thing his competitors are.

Yet this is what we have with this Pistonius.

I think there is room for middle ground here. Just like the solution to the webbed prothesis is to disallow that kind of prothesis, if Pistonius races with a prothesis that has less spring, so that it more closely approximates what an able bodied runner does, I'm all for it.

BTW, I don't think this is like Casey Martin, who I totally supported.


Posted by: McKingford | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:12 PM
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Have I mentioned my new idea that all conventionally qualifying Olympic athletes should get a free wild card to show up at different Olympic events and compete in that sport?

Like, what if the gymasts looked over at track and field and said "high jump? I do that every day and I do flips at the top."? Then they could just show up and compete with the regulars.

Most of it would be predictable, of course. But you would get some upsets. It would be way more entertaining.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:12 PM
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I thought the point of sports was to see who was the fastest

Who was the fastest at what? Getting from point A to point B? Getting from point A to point B with no mechanical aids? Getting from point A to point B with only spring-type mechanical aids, but not wheel type mechanical aids?

Why should marathons separate out the wheelchair racers?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:14 PM
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153: Isn't that just an accident of history? The effect of weight on fighting sports was obvious from the beginning, so we had weight classes early on. But recently has competition in running gotten intense enough that height makes a difference. We don't compensate for hight, because it seems "natural" to us to have people of different hights in the same race.

But "natural" here just means "what we are used to"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:14 PM
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154: Come on, Tweety, there are a lot of sports and events where you will find a ton of physical variance. Take, for example, pitching in baseball. Or hell, playing fucking basketball. You've got guys from 5'10" all the way to over seven feet. Sure, all the people who high jump will be tall, but some of them will be taller. People who run marathons will be skinny, but some will be skinnier than other.

You can come up with a few instances where people cluster around certain weights, but it's by no means the rule for all athletic events.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:14 PM
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138: I'm not going to argue that there is a nice clear concept of the Form of Sport, but there is an effort to try to keep the competition about being between the competitors, not their technology. What that doesn't entail is that the competitors have to start out mechanically equal: if I'm fencing someone much taller with a much longer reach, I don't get to have an extra long weapon to compensate.

I don't have a good sense of exactly where the line is, but the mechanics of his prosthetics seem to me to be over it. And it's not because his feats aren't impressive, or that it's cheating to be fast on prosthetics. It just seems to be a very different sport mechanically so there's no useful comparison to an able-bodied runner. And I would agree with you were it something like a replacement knee that that didn't change the mechanics of it.

Plus, if we're postulating alternate worlds, I'd rather see more attention & money towards the Paralympics. Even if the guy competes, he's not going to qualify.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:15 PM
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145: Or porn...


Posted by: McKingford | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:16 PM
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And counerfactual statements like "the able-bodied can have their own slower and inferior competition which is the current arrangement" are okay, too.

Not sure what you're getting at here. My statement was factual, not counterfactual (and not false, either). Ever heard of wheelchair racing? In the competitions I've seen, the rollers were much faster than the runners, and I didn't hear anybody in either competition complain about the segregation because, of course, doing so would be ludicrous.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:16 PM
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The post title is supposed to be a pun on pistons being machines, right?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:16 PM
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159: You can come up with a few instances where people cluster around certain weights

Such as sprinting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:16 PM
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B and LeBlanc, would it be OK in your view for wheelchair athletes to compete in the same races with runners? I'm getting the feeling that we're having this argument only because this particular athlete with these particular prostheses is turning in times that put him in a narrow range of apparently competitive but not clearly superior. Are you arguing the case strictly on behalf of this athlete in these circumstances? Would you see the situtation differently if he were running world-record times?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:17 PM
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there is an effort to try to keep the competition about being between the competitors, not their technology.

Except that this effort is a lie. Every athlete is just a nexus around which doctors, trainers, accountants and advertising people operate.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:17 PM
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But when that natural variance requires someone to have prostheses so that they can even compete, we say "aw hell naw?" I think that sucks.

It's not requiring prostheses that makes them unable to compete, it's using a prosthesis that works in a fundamentally different (and more effective) way than the body part it's replacing.

If someone suffered a head injury that compromised their memory, it'd be totally reasonable to give them a prosthetic memory in the form on an iPhone so they could google what they couldn't remember. But you wouldn't let this person on Jeopardy.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:17 PM
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162: Yes, but "inferior" is only true as redundant to "slower" -- the big bux aren't in the wheelchair races.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:18 PM
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Eh. I got called away for a while, but I don't think there should be any bad feeling in this thread. The disagreement really isn't about principles, it's about facts. As I said somewhere way above, no one (I think no one) thinks that wheelchair racers should be able to run in footraces -- it would be patently silly. The fact question is whether this guy's prostheses are like a wheelchair, a fundamentally different means of getting around, or enough similar to biological legs to count as the same thing for the purpose of sports.

Which category you put this guy's prostheses in is a judgment call. It looks pretty clear to me that they're very different from bio-legs. If they were more similar, I'd think it was fine to let him run.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:18 PM
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therefore we are not "measuring" *how* they do it, but who gets across the finishing line first.

But almost all sports care very deeply about how people do what they're trying to do, not just how fast or how far.

Pistorius's prosthetics give him an unfair advantage, so, tough. Get different prosthetics, or compete against people with the same advantage.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:18 PM
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would it be OK in your view for wheelchair athletes to compete in the same races with runners?

No. Like I said earlier, a wheelchair is a jetpack.

Would you see the situtation differently if he were running world-record times?

No.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:18 PM
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The analogy ban lies bleeding.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:19 PM
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It really, really does.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:20 PM
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155: Just like the solution to the webbed prothesis is to disallow that kind of prothesis, if Pistonius races with a prothesis that has less spring, so that it more closely approximates what an able bodied runner does, I'm all for it.

I don't think we can closely approximate an able-bodied runner's legs and feet with our current technology. Feet are complicated.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:21 PM
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No it doesn't. How does letting *one* disabled runner compete ban *every able-bodied runner*?

Okay, then. The B position bans all disabled people from competing, except one.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:21 PM
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I'm actually with NPH on this one. I'm happy to have you sports guys lay down arbitrary rules. I just want you to admit that this is completely arbitrary, and that there is no "real" concept of "running" at work here.

I'd talk more, but I gotta run.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:21 PM
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No. Like I said earlier, a wheelchair is a jetpack.

You can say that all you want, it still won't make sense.

A prosthetic leg uses the mechanism of a spring to provide additional propulsion. A wheelchair uses the mechanism of the wheel to provide additional propulsion. A jet pack uses the principle of (I guess) internal combustion to provide additional propulsion. A wheelchair and a prosthetic leg are both fundamentally dependent on the physical strength of the operator. A jetpack is not. Neither is anything like running using only muscles.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:21 PM
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politicalfootball, what are you even talking about?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:22 PM
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171: No. Like I said earlier, a wheelchair is a jetpack.

See, you're arguing with people (including me) who think his prostheses are jetpacks. That's a judgment call based on the facts, but it's not a matter of principle or attitude toward the disabled.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:22 PM
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I don't think there should be any bad feeling in this thread

Only bad touching.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:23 PM
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If his prostheses were so much of a jetpack though, LB, how come he isn't already beating all the sprinters?

That's what I'm saying about wheelchairs--any decent wheelchair racer will beat even an excellent sprinter, right?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:23 PM
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Thinking about the kinesthesiology, what pistorius is doing is much more similar to bicycle racing than it is to sprinting. Maybe he should try to race the Tour de France.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:24 PM
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If his prostheses were so much of a jetpack though, LB, how come he isn't already beating all the sprinters?

He must be a really shitty athlete.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:24 PM
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181: because the technology is new. Give it a couple years and he will be. Give it a couple years past that and an average amputee will beat the best able-bodied sprinter.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:25 PM
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176- He's not running? That would seem indisputable.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:26 PM
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181: Surely your argument can't be that they should be allowed because he wouldn't win.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:26 PM
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181, 171.2: WTF?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:26 PM
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Most athletes probably wouldn't venture over to other sports, since they had to be obsessive to get as far as they did. But you might get a few natural athletes who think to themselves "I'm fast. Let's go see how I compare to the runners." That'd be awesome.

The final events would be more likely to get crashers than the early ones; you figure most people aren't gonna compete as a lark until their own events are done. Imagine how pissed your coach would be if you got hurt or tired. And the equipment sports are probably safe from crashers.

Best of all would be if the networks didn't know which athletes would be using their wildcards. Then they couldn't make those soft-focus annoying-as-fuck biopics.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:27 PM
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181: So, you're pretty much endorsing NPH's 165: I'm getting the feeling that we're having this argument only because this particular athlete with these particular prostheses is turning in times that put him in a narrow range of apparently competitive but not clearly superior. Are you arguing the case strictly on behalf of this athlete in these circumstances? Would you see the situtation differently if he were running world-record times?

And there, the deal is the precedent. Sifu linked to some bouncy stilt things that are supposed to make you able to run 20 mph. If the Olympics are wrong to regulate what sort of prostheses you're allowed to use, then they have no grounds to regulate anything unreasonable -- all other competitors are subject to regulation (running shoes only, no bouncy stilts), but this guy is on the honor system to only use reasonable prostheses. At which point if one competitor is subject to a completely different regulatory structure than all others, they may all be 'running' but they're not all in the same sporting event.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:28 PM
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I don't mean that a wheelchair is actually a jetpack, kids. I was referring to the earlier discussion above about "why not give them a jetpack"? Saying "x is a jetpack" is saying "x is a totally different and extra device that will give you a huge advantage".

Obviously, some people think his prostheses are such a device. I don't. So, like LB said, it's a factual disagreement.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:29 PM
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OK, we've had our differences from time to time, but surely we can all get behind the Megan Plan.

And then celebrate by throwing furniture off the roof.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:29 PM
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186: Of course not. What I'm saying is that everyone is saying "it gives him such a huge advantage, therefore it's totally different equipment" doesn't make sense given that he's a fantastic athlete and still not winning with his fake legs.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:30 PM
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Actually, this guy would (a) suck at football, cause he has no fine motor control in those legs, (but assuming they were properly controllable) (b) be very unlikely allowed to compete at the top level, even if he could, because it just wouldn't be football.

He'd have a massive advantage over other players, because he's got a mechanical aid. It'd be like letting the keeper wear gloves with glue on them, or giving strikers springs in their shoes.

That's not playing football; football is about human skill, not mechanical ingenuity.

Likewise with cycling, as the ICU says. I mean, what's the difference between Greame Obree and this guy? Both use technological aids which the sport has said fall on the wrong side of the line.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:30 PM
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I'm behind the Megan Plan.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:30 PM
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Megan, you are probably too young to recall, but one of the networks actually did something like this a few decades ago: "The Superstars" I think it was called, and athletes from different sports would engage in cross-sport competition. It was pretty cool.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:32 PM
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190:

Obviously, some people think his prostheses are such a device. I don't. So, like LB said, it's a factual disagreement.

So, prostheses that do constitute a totally different and extra device that will give you a huge advantage are conceivable, and you wouldn't consider it appropriate to allow competition with such prostheses. At that point, who decides? Honor system, or up to the Olympics?

And if the latter, what's wrong with what just happened?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:33 PM
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football is about human skill, not mechanical ingenuity

This is where I think a lot of people in this thread are coming from, even if they might not say it. That you have to be totally "natural" to compete in a sport against other "natural" "human"s. That may be the rule you decide to have (and indeed, the rule that they've decided on), but it's a sucky rule. IMHO.

Some "humans" come without legs, you know.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:34 PM
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Have you all seen the new American Gladiators? IT'S AWESOME. There's water and fire and there's swimming under the fire.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:34 PM
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The disagreement really isn't about principles, it's about facts.

I think I disagree with this, or would, if I were participating in this thread that can't possibly be happening. Each sport says "you can use your body and this equipment," and the equipment you can use is the same, within very narrow limits, for all competitors.

I think the question of "What is the Platonic Form of running?" is confusing the issue. What the Olympic committee has to decide isn't "Is Pistorius running?" but "Is his equipment allowed by the rules?" It's clearly not.

There's a further argument to be had about whether what he's doing is "running" and whether the rules should be changed to allow a wide range of equipment to be used. If you think they should, you should try to get funding for that event and see how many people are interested. You should probably start at the circus.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:34 PM
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192: But that's not what I'm saying. It's totally different equipment because it's totally different equipment, and it doesn't approximate mechanically what runners do when they run.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:34 PM
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I don't think we can closely approximate an able-bodied runner's legs and feet with our current technology. Feet are complicated.

It isn't a case of replicating. The device he currently evidently has sufficient spring that he uses 25% less energy than an able bodied runner to achieve the same speed. If one were engineering prosthetic devices, one would want to make the best ones possible - ones that allow a person to run as fast as they can (even if more efficient than a normal, able-bodied, stride) - this device would be acceptable for just about any activity short of Olympic sprinting.

Surely you could devise a prosthesis that eliminated this 25% premium - I recognize that this type of prosthesis wouldn't be the most efficient, but it would eliminate the cause for concern.


Posted by: McKingford | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:35 PM
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192: strike the first part; I don't care what kind of an advantage it gives, it is totally different equipment. If he is not able to qualify, he shouldn't be allowed to compete in sprint events at the olympics. If he is able to qualify, he shouldn't be allowed to compete in sprint events at the olympics. If he is so much better than anybody else that it's ridiculous, he shouldn't be allowed to compete at sprint events in the olympics. If the olympics wants to create an event for mechanically aided sprinting, which allows springs, then that's awesome. If the X Games creates a big-money paralympic contest for only those athletes who can move more quickly on prosthetic legs than be-legged athletes can on regular legs, that's awesome. If big time sprinters feel like they're missing out on the lucrative Mountain Dew contracts and want to compete in that X-Games event, fuck 'em, they can get amputations if they're so worried about it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:35 PM
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he's a fantastic athlete

Perhaps, but he's not a fantastic sprinter because he was born without fibulas. Just like I'm not a fantastic sprinter because my genes ensured that I was going to be short with bad knees. There is nothing "disabled-hating" about not letting this guy use special mechanic devices so he can compete.


Posted by: PeaDub | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:36 PM
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That's not playing football; football is about human skill, not mechanical ingenuity.

See, this is the part I disagree with. In one way it is all human skill, since we made all these appliances and training regimes. In another way, it is all dumb luck, because everyone is playing with the hand that is dealt them. There is nothing "human" that separates the trained runner with feet and trained runner without feet, or the untrained runner with a jetpack who was trained in using a jetpack.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:36 PM
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196: Any firm that doesn't send you to court regularly really ought to be hanging its head in shame.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:36 PM
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My feeling is: metal hand, yes, bear claw no


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:37 PM
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Some "humans" come without legs, you know.

And they can't run very fast.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:37 PM
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Also, this is highly reminiscent of the famous Scalia "meaning of golf" dissent. With ogged as Scalia. Which is cool.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:38 PM
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I think 155's right. Given the number of amputees from the current war and the fact that the military keeps records of how fast its soldiers can run, maybe some sort of calibration can be arrived at -- a formula for tuning a prosthetic so that a runner produces times pretty close to the ones he clocked before he lost his legs.

I'm sure this would vary a lot by individual, but it seems like it might be possible to get it in the right ballpark. And once you do that, statistics take care of the rest, since the aspiring competitors would almost certainly all wind up being much too slow.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:38 PM
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207 made me laugh out loud.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:38 PM
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208: it totally is not. I knew somebody was going to bring that case up; figures it'd be you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:39 PM
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199: They did more than just ask if the equipment was allowed. They observed the equipment in action and read about its mechanical properties and compared them to ankles. So I do think it is a question about where the line of 'is it still the same sport' is going to be drawn.

And, no, it's not a question about whether I think disabled people are worthy of moral status. Come on. The Olympics aren't about what defines human beings, whatever the ads say.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:40 PM
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Isn't Casey Martin the golf guy? He got brought up upthread.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:40 PM
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206: Liberal pussy.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:40 PM
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214: It's a close call, I admit.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:41 PM
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213: he had a name?

Goddamn uppity cripples.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:42 PM
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With any of these marginal cases there is in fact a brief period of contoversy, where the "meaning of sport X" is debated and then invested folks coalesce around an agreed to expanded, traditional or compromised view. It usually happens over much narrower changes than this of course. David Berkoff expanded the notion of "backstroke" with the Berkoff Blastoff which advantaged certain competitors/body types and disadvantaged others. In the end a compromise was reached. Sport or event bifurcation can result in extreme cases.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:43 PM
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And some humans come without the right genetic code. Most sports don't let them take performance enhancing drugs.

And, yeah, don't poke holes in the ingenuity/skill line, because it doesn't make much sense, but, I think, enough.

(I.E, the Obree case and the America' Cup.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:44 PM
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David Berkoff expanded the notion of "backstroke" with the Berkoff Blastoff which advantaged certain competitors/body types and disadvantaged others. In the end a compromise was reached. Sport or event bifurcation can result in extreme cases.

Butterfly was originally a way to cheat at breaststroke.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:46 PM
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it doesn't make much sense, but, I think, enough

Which is to say, the resulting competition is marketable.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:46 PM
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201: The thing is, you could eliminate that 25% extra spring, but then you'd run into the ways in which the leg doesn't work as well as a bio leg. Until you can make one that works just like a bio leg, deciding whether the advantages balance the disadvantages seems impossible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:47 PM
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220: Yup.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:48 PM
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Megan, you are probably too young to recall, but one of the networks actually did something like this a few decades ago: "The Superstars" I think it was called

Can we have this during the writer's strike? Pretty please?


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:48 PM
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Shoot, I totally missed the Casey Martin discussion upthread. My feeling was a) the PGA should have changed their rules and let Martin play, b) it's obviously not the case that there's some rule-independent meaning of golf. The rules just are what they are. That's the Sifu Tweety/Scalia (BFF 4EVER!) argument...


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:51 PM
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Yeah. The Superstars sounds great. Not quite as great as my wildcard Olympics, but a big step in the right direction.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:52 PM
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"Marketable" is standing in for the point that this is all quite arbitrary, but it's not. Sprinting, in particular, is about as close to natural competition as you're going to get. You get to wear shorts, a top, and shoes, which are themselves subject to strict rules. You can use your fancy legal and philosophical training to try to blur the distinction between bodies and equipment and between acceptable and unacceptable equipment, but "marketable" is really standing in for obviousness.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:52 PM
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223: They even invited the NASCAR drivers. I remember rooting for Bobby Allison, who placed last in everything, but did so with good humor.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:53 PM
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We had a Casey Martin discussion here (in which you were all wrong), but I can't find it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:53 PM
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224: Yep. That's something where it seems clear that the PGA were just being pointlessly mean, but once you start talking about who gets to make that call, Scalia was right. Much as those last three words pain me to utter.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:54 PM
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Sifu Tweety/Scalia (BFF 4EVER!)

Always the Brookline-ites turn on their own.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:57 PM
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it's obviously not the case that there's some rule-independent meaning of golf.

It's not rule dependent so much as sports community dependent, and I'm sure the other eight are golfers. (Maybe not Ginsberg; she looks like she weighs the same as a club.) I'm betting the fact that there were a lot of weekend duffers made the difference in how Martin's case was perceived.

Also, golf's not really a sport. Not really pertinent, but it had to be said.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:57 PM
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Some highlights/lowlights of Superstars:

Bob Seagren (pole vaulter from above) won the first one.
Joe Frazier nearly drowned in the swim.
Jim Ryun trying to hit a baseball. (he is/was a dickweed Kansas legislator now)

You had to be invited and if you won too much and were not well know that was that. (Canadian soccer player Brian Budd.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:58 PM
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Always the Brookline-ites turn on their own.

I'm sure he didn't mean to turn you on.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:58 PM
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Also, golf's not really a sport. Not really pertinent, but it had to be said.

Well, that's kind of my thinking. It seemed like banning someone in a wheelchair from a chess tournament because the rules require you to rise and shake hands after the match.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:59 PM
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151: I don't know what to call it. But if it's "running" then my using 900 cc of engine on my bike is "cycling" 'cause it has two wheels and handle bars. Let's not quibble about using gasoline either. That's just dead dino and trees, not all that much different from human meat.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 3:59 PM
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231: I really enjoyed the US Open winner, Cabrera, grabbing smokes on the course this year. (They tried to not show it on TV.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:00 PM
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natural competition ????!!!!

I'll go along with the idea that a footrace is as about as close to the Platonic ideal of sport as you're going to get. Not so much with the idea that the Olympic 100 is.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:03 PM
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for god's sake you fucking sports purists. You were all probably against the use of steroids and EPO in sports, and I think we can agree that has been a big success.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:10 PM
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as close to the Platonic ideal of sport as you're going to get

Bare knuckle boxing.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:11 PM
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I'm okay with this guy competing at the olympic level. What worries me is the trickle down effect, whereby some kid with no legs is allowed to run around with all the able-bodied kids at recess. It's called a precedent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:11 PM
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239: naked oil wrestling.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:12 PM
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239: Roller derby.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:14 PM
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239: I was actually thinking "war." It is a pure physical dominance struggle.

Interestingly, every single technological advantage is allowed in war, and generally pursued. We've already seen a number of good human enhancements come out of the military, and we are almost certainly going to see more in the future.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:14 PM
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239: Pillaging.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:15 PM
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241: The Greeks did it!


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:15 PM
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I really do think it would be much better if they let him run. But that's partly because I think subverting big-time sports is a good thing.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:15 PM
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Also, golf's not really a sport. Not really pertinent, but it had to be said.

True, but neither is baseball.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:15 PM
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245 to 242-244.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:16 PM
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I think there's a strong argument that by preventing Casey Martin from playing golf the PGA would be doing him a favor because golf sucks.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:16 PM
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245: And look how they turned out!


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:16 PM
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JPS, have you seen Visions of Eight, the '72 Olympics documentary? One of the eight shorts ("The Highest", by Arthur Penn) is about the pole vaulting competition; it's an amazing piece of work. Incidentally, I read that Seagren said years later that having to replace his pole wasn't the reason for his second-place finish after all.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:17 PM
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I don't know what to call it.

Running with prosthetics?


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:17 PM
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Am I right that the people who are most sympathetic to letting Pistonius in (Bitch, leblanc, me, not prince hamlet) are the least sympathetic to sports?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:17 PM
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245: The did both! Pankration seems like it was maybe UFC.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:18 PM
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I have asked the ultimate arbiter of "fair," a seven year old child. PK says they should let him run, because

"it doesn't just depend on how good his legs are who wins. There are lots of other things too, like how good his lungs are, how strong he is, and all that. So it kind of evens the odds."

So there.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:18 PM
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The cheetohs really have claimed my y.

They, obvs.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:19 PM
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Am I right that the people who are most sympathetic to letting Pistonius in (Bitch, leblanc, me, not prince hamlet) are the least sympathetic to sports?

I was going to make that comment! You selfish bastard.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:19 PM
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253: That's what I suspected.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:20 PM
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255: Cut his hair and then ask him.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:20 PM
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every single technological advantage is allowed in war, and generally pursued.

This is not true. e.g.: I am given to understand that napalm is considered to be very useful in its category (area effect against unarmored targets), but not used due to its horrible PR.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:21 PM
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And there's various things forbidden by the Geneva Conventions -- biological warfare etc, I think.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:22 PM
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The real story to me here is the baroque hypertechnicality and specificity of modern-day sports and the passion they generate for a discussion like this. I ask this mostly seriously, WTF is up with that? Surrogate warfare, OK, but also surrogate level playing field for channeling frustration about the lack thereof in general? Why this massive buildup of it in the last 100 years? (I know some of it is driven by commercialization, but that in itself is exploiting something more fundamental.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:24 PM
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Pankration

I guess this is probably pan-kration, but reading from the bottom up and not knowing that 254's response to 245 involved Greeks as an unarticulated constituent, I was really puzzled over what a pank ration might be.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:24 PM
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260: I thought about that, and in more serious contexts (arguing about Bush administration policy) I have strenuously argued that the rules of war have been real and effective for the last hundred plus years.

There are plenty of other times in history, though, were serious technological imbalance led to far worse horrors. See, e.g., Jared Diamond on the arrival of the Spanish in Central America


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:24 PM
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Actually I figured it would be a ration of pank. What puzzled me was what pank might be.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:25 PM
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it doesn't just depend on how good his legs are who wins.

True, too bad it also depends on how good his legs are. Did you ask PK about whether other runners should be able to wear spring-enhanced shoes?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:25 PM
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hy this massive buildup of it in the last 100 years?

The technology has built up, not the instinct. I think you could probably find similar arguments as far back as you'd want to go.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:26 PM
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265: It is a word with many meanings.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:28 PM
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The thing is, with warfare there are obvious human values at stake which can help guide the development of our rules, and whose influence has mostly been increasing over the course of history.

There are no such values at stake with the concept "running."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:30 PM
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251: JPS, have you seen Visions of Eight, the '72 Olympics documentary?

No, will look it up. Thanks. I had not seen where Seagren had said that before, but you are probably referring to this where he does say that. Here is a link to a nice little retrospective of 16 different "stories" from those messed up games. (Although they do not cover the shameful racist treatment of Vince Matthews and Wayne Collet.)

Want to feel old moment of the day for those who were alive for the '72 games. They are as far removed in time from today as they were from the '36 Berlin Olympics.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:37 PM
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But, really, we do. You will never find a 250lb bicycle racer or a 130lb lineman. The only people who get to compete in sports at an elite level are people who have the luck to have been born with very specific, very unusual body types that allow them to exceed

That isn't because we have passed rules that officially ban 250 lb people from bike racing. Large people are, in fact, free to bike race, and if they are good enough, they can enter the Olympics. The fact that they aren't generally good enough is not because we have imposed a ban; it is simply the way the thing goes. Just as the fact that legless people cannot run is simply the way the thing goes, and now that a legless person can run, he should be allowed to compete.

I don't have a good sense of exactly where the line is, but the mechanics of his prosthetics seem to me to be over it.

This is what I am saying. Without a clear sense of where the line is, I think it is right to err on the side of inclusiveness.

It looks pretty clear to me that they're very different from bio-legs.

So, for LB, the line is what the legs look like (I realize this isn't exactly what she means, but for the sake of argument this is one place to draw the line). To me, they look like legs, or enough so: they aren't wheels, they are two vertical devices on which he has to alternately balance his weight, just as people with legs do, in order to propel himself forward.

A prosthetic leg uses the mechanism of a spring to provide additional propulsion. . . . A wheelchair and a prosthetic leg are both fundamentally dependent on the physical strength of the operator. A jetpack is not. Neither is anything like running using only muscles.

See, I would say that a prosthetic leg uses the mechanism of a spring to *substitute for the lack of muscles.* He can't run using only muscles, because he *has* no muscles in his lower leg; he has no lower leg. What he has is a prosthetic device that has been designed to approximate the way that lower legs work. As it happens, virtually all prosthetic legs are inferior to real legs in terms of mobility (though superior, obviously, in terms of things like durability, etc., I assume). This pair isn't. It really seems like what we're saying is that now that one handicapped person has finally achieved--with help, of course--the ability to actually compete with, and maybe be better than, able-bodied people, that we're calling foul. He *isn't* using wheels or a jet pack; he's using something that's like legs, only better.

Am I right that the people who are most sympathetic to letting Pistonius in (Bitch, leblanc, me, not prince hamlet) are the least sympathetic to sports?

I think I'm most sympathetic to it not because I dislike sports (I don't, actually), but because I am extremely hung up about arguments based on disqualifying group X from being included in dominant group Y's activities because group X's bodies are fundamentally different.

I can't find where someone said, basically, that I'm arguing for letting one handicapped person compete. Clearly I'm not. I'm saying that the slippery-slope arguments about how this will Fundamentally Change The Sport As We Know It!!! are exaggerations. We are talking about one person in an exceptional circumstance.

And for the "it's not fair because it's equipment" argument, well, so are running shoes, but we don't insist that runners compete barefoot.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:38 PM
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267: There's also a whole lot more money available to be spent on sports at all levels. But I think 262 is onto something with the surrogate level playing field idea.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:38 PM
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266: No, I did not. Because that's not what's at stake in this particular argument.

If you want to say, in effect, that the sport of foot racing is a sport that we will only allow people with two flesh-and-blood legs compete in, then say that. Because the argument isn't about what he *has*--prosthetic legs--it's about what he *lacks*--real legs. Without real legs, he *cannot compete unless he uses prosthetics.* Therefore, by denying prosthetics, what y'all are saying basically boils down to, if you are not born with legs, we will not let you compete in Olympic foot races. The equipment thing, I think, is a red herring.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:41 PM
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271: We do, however, standardize the running shoes that are permitted.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:44 PM
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If you are born without legs, you are free to try to qualify in Olympic foot races, but you don't get to use any equipment that's not available to any of the other competitors.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:44 PM
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I think I'm most sympathetic to it not because I dislike sports (I don't, actually)

I think the issue is that you and I don't have very strong intuitions about the "essence" of the sport, because we don't think about it very much. Thus it is easy for the intuitions that are more dear to us dominate.

But this actually puts us in a better epistemic position, because sports really don't have an essence.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:44 PM
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I don't know why you think "running" is a such a difficult thing to describe, helpy-chalk. And I say that as someone who has sat through interminable discussions about "Isn't it cool how it's so hard to define 'chair?'"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:46 PM
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A legless person can enter. He just won't get very far.

What you're saying is that amputees should be allowed to use prosthetics that non-amputees would never in a million years get away with -- even non-amputees who're about as crap at running as an amputee.

It's the `with help' part. It's not him that's good at running. It's the legs.

And, Bitch, that thing about shoes is nonsense. It's like saying that you can't ban engines (or the superman pose for that matter,) in cycling because a bicycle's a machine too.

Also, why are the arguments about `the fundamental change in the sport' exaggeration? Changes in equipment do lead to fundamental differences in sport, and they always start out as exceptional cases, because of their very nature.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:46 PM
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Repeating myself: B and LeBlanc, would it be OK in your view for wheelchair athletes to compete in the same races with runners? I'm getting the feeling that we're having this argument only because this particular athlete with these particular prostheses is turning in times that put him in a narrow range of apparently competitive but not clearly superior. Are you arguing the case strictly on behalf of this athlete in these circumstances? Would you see the situtation differently if he were running world-record times?

LeBlanc responded, and I and others responded to her, from about 171 to 196 above. B, I'm still not clear where you are on this.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:47 PM
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274: Sure, but we don't require everyone to use the exact same shoes. And some athletes, with better records or from richer countries or who are exceptionally good, are going to have better shoes provided them than others.

275: Any of the other competiors can use prosthetic legs if they want to. They would have to have their real legs amputated, presumably, in order to use the devices properly.

Seriously, Ogged, do you not see that the "equipment that's not available to everyone else" thing is fundamentally flawed? The equipment isn't denied to able-bodied runners because able-bodied runners don't need, and cannot use, prosthetics. It isn't a question of availability. It's a question of whether people who lack specific body parts are, or are not, going to be allowed to compete at all.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:47 PM
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Therefore, by denying prosthetics, what y'all are saying basically boils down to, if you are not born with legs, we will not let you compete in Olympic foot races.

Yes. Other people who can't compete in Olympic foot races are those who don't have the time or financial backing to practice enough, and those who are cursed with stocky frames and slow metabolisms. Pastorius would just get weeded out at an earlier stage than those people.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:47 PM
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sports really don't have an essence

Ever smelled a locker room?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:47 PM
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Pastorius would just get weeded out

For being dead.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:49 PM
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The equipment isn't denied to able-bodied runners because able-bodied runners don't need, and cannot use, prosthetics.

What prosthetics? They can't use the same exact prosthetics this guy uses, but they could find some other spring-loaded device to make them go faster.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:49 PM
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Hey, B and M. Leblanc, etc. Here's a sincere question: where do you draw the line on professions that require a certain amount of able-bodiedness to stop accomodating people with disabilities? I'm sure there's some ludicrous example out there that we'd all say, right, the Mr. T Body Double has to look sort of like Mr. T. But what's the real, gray answer?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:50 PM
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What I'm saying is that everyone is saying "it gives him such a huge advantage, therefore it's totally different equipment" doesn't make sense given that he's a fantastic athlete and still not winning with his fake legs.

I direct you to this essay on LASIK surgery among baseball players. When random players start enhancing their bodies people don't get upset, until the exact point at which they become better than any non-enhanced player. And when a player who's already the best starts enhancing his body, suddenly people get upset! The fact that people don't mind the precedent when it first gets set is not meaningful.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:53 PM
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Seriously, Ogged, do you not see that the "equipment that's not available to everyone else" thing is fundamentally flawed? The equipment isn't denied to able-bodied runners because able-bodied runners don't need, and cannot use, prosthetics. It isn't a question of availability. It's a question of whether people who lack specific body parts are, or are not, going to be allowed to compete at all.

This is bullshit. "Prosthetic Legs" are not banned. These particular prosthetic legs, that happen to let you move much more efficiently than natural legs, are banned. It is certainly true that with previous prosthetic legs you couldn't be a world-class runner, but you can't be a world-class runner with a 20% bodyfat percentage either.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:54 PM
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Actually, there are contexts where "running" can be very precisely defined, evolutionary theory, for example. There was a really cool study a while back that showed that humans, unlike any other primate, are adapted to run at high speeds for long distances. (The fun part, all these adaptations are on your ass.) But conceptual constraints were at work here, like testability and the need for gait to be defined as a cause in the theory.

I don't see how those constraints are at work here, mostly because I don't see a line between "humanly possible' and "technologically possible."

At root, human beings don't have an essence (this point is more David Hull than J.P. Sartre) as a result "humanly possible" won't have an essence


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:54 PM
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IT WOULD BE UNFAIR TO THE REST IF WE ELECTED A SIMPLETON (WHO HAPPENED TO BE SURROUNDED BY DOZENS OF SURROGATE BRAINS GIVING HIM SUPERHUMAN DEVIOSITY) AS U.S. EMPEROR.


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:55 PM
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What you're saying is that amputees should be allowed to use prosthetics that non-amputees would never in a million years get away with

No. I'm saying that amputees should be allowed to use prosthetics because their not doing so means that competition would be completely impossible. Using prosthetics is how amputees run.

It's not him that's good at running. It's the legs.

Dubious. I bet if you cut my legs off and strapped those legs on me, I'd fall down. Certainly the legs aren't running without him.

It's like saying that you can't ban engines (or the superman pose for that matter,) in cycling because a bicycle's a machine too.

Not at all. I'm not making the a machine=a machine=a machine argument; I'm making the opposite argument, which is that in this case, the prosthetics aren't a machine; they are the man's legs.

why are the arguments about `the fundamental change in the sport' exaggeration?

Because, again, I don't think this is an equipment argument; it's a bodies argument. If and when able-bodied runners start strapping prosthetics to their knees and tying their natural ankles to their hips so they can run on prosthetics rather than legs, or disabled runners start entering footraces in significant numbers and winning regularly, *then* we'll be talking about a significant change in the sport.

279: Wheelchairs are fundamentally different than prosthetic legs; they don't function on a bipedal basis. Prosthetic legs do, and they don't have wheels. The springs substitute for muscles that the man doesn't have. Therefore yeah, as I've already said, I view wheelchairs as fundamentally different than what we're talking about here. I would be making the same argument, yes, if he were running world record times.

Now, if *twenty* legless runners were setting world records using prosthetic limbs, then sure; clearly the limbs are an unfair advantage. But with a sample size of one, it isn't possible to say definitively that the disadvantage of lacking legs (and nerve feedback, etc) is clearly outweighed by the advantage of prosthetics, regardless of how fast (or not) this guy is.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:56 PM
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272: But I think 262 is onto something with the surrogate level playing field idea.

What made me think of it was the is the continuing passion expressed in this thread by people who care fuck all about sprinting, and people like my wife who have no interest in baseball but definite vocal opinions on steroids/Barry Bonds. Makes me think that "sports" in the abstract are in part a vessel into which we pour our hopes for a surrogate fair shake in this world.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 4:56 PM
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What if it were a double amputee with no arms? And s/he had the disadvantage of not having arms for balance or whatever, but the advantage of being more aerodynamic?


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:01 PM
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271: I think I'm most sympathetic to it not because I dislike sports (I don't, actually), but because I am extremely hung up about arguments based on disqualifying group X from being included in dominant group Y's activities because group X's bodies are fundamentally different.

See, women are cripples in a sense, because of their lack of a penis.

If there were a fucking Olympics, B. would want the laydeez to be allowed dildos.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:01 PM
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290, there are plenty of people in the world, such as yourself, who are not eligible for world-class speed contests because of their body types, whether it be too fat, having a brain that is unable to focus on repetitive grueling tasks, et cetera. This fellow is an extreme example of that.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:02 PM
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"Prosthetic Legs" are not banned. These particular prosthetic legs, that happen to let you move much more efficiently than natural legs, are banned.

So the handicapped can compete, as long as they have no chance of actually winning.

285: I'm pretty happy with the ADA regulations about "reasonable accomodation." If it doesn't present a major financial burden, or expect unreasonable social accomodations from the able bodied, let 'em in. So, for instance, if you have to move the desks around and maybe buy so-and-so a special computer, then you can't say no. But if you have to, say, install a heart-lung machine and hire a nurse practicioner because so-and-sos heart could stop at any time, then okay, that's a bit much. If everyone has to learn to be patient while X speaks slowly, or to ignore the fact that Y drools, then they can damn well do so. If everyone has to put up with Z's manic episodes, when Z shouts abuse and sexually propositions all the secretaries, then no, I'm sorry, Z should find another line of work.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:02 PM
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If there were a fucking Olympics, B. would want the laydeez to be allowed dildos.

Hormones, certainly. If only for the year or so before the competition.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:03 PM
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If everyone has to put up with Z's manic episodes, when Z shouts abuse and sexually propositions all the secretaries, then no, I'm sorry, Z should find another line of work.

That's a bunch of BS. He can't control himself! They need to learn to not take it personally.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:05 PM
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Dubious. I bet if you cut my legs off and strapped those legs on me, I'd fall down. Certainly the legs aren't running without him.

He's a white guy with world class times. It's the legs.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:06 PM
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294: And as I've said already, if your argument is, in fact, "people born without legs are forbidden from competing," then fine. I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to people who are making different arguments."

297: See "reasonable accomodation." It is not realistic to expect people to learn not to take that sort of thing personally in the same way that it is realistic to expect people to slow down their speech or politely overlook other people's bodily functions.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:07 PM
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Now, if *twenty* legless runners were setting world records using prosthetic limbs, then sure; clearly the limbs are an unfair advantage.
This seems inconsistent with the rest of your position. I read you as saying that since the prosthetics permit him to compete, they are OK, and their actual performance is irrelevant. In 290: I would be making the same argument, yes, if he were running world record times.

So it seems like you're not quite certain on whether this notion of "unfair advantage" exists or not.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:09 PM
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We seem to be coming back to B's intuitions as the measuring stick for all things.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:10 PM
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B, I direct you to LB's earlier responses to m. leblanc. Sports are just collections of rules governing how an object; presumably it's acceptable for the Olympics to set rules about what equipment is acceptable. And presumably you think that they can draw a line excluding rollerblades as 'not acceptable', even if they are compensating for a loss.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:11 PM
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One of my least favorite moments in Olympic sports was in 1984, when Dwight Stones was both a high jump participant and a TV commentator. (I don't know if he was a stoner per se, but he was your stereotypical breezy, cocky California surfer dude).

When the Chinese jumper Jianhua Zhu was competing basically second-guessed him, talked about how he was under a lot of pressure, etc. -- even though Zhu had already beat Stones (Zhu got 3rd and bronze , Stones got 4th and no medal.) Zhu's lifetime best was also better than Stones'.

For me that's always been an image of the cocky, braggart American.

Along with a reminder that TV people (Stones) always trump real people (Zhu), even when the real people are better in real life.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:12 PM
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Shouldnt we be moaning about the poor athlete who is disqualified from a competition because he or she took sudafed?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:15 PM
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303: This is why some unknown from another sport should be allowed in to school them both.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:15 PM
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Amputees are not forbidden from competing, any more than, say, a sumo wrestler is forbidden from competing in the Olympic marathon.

If they can't make qualifying time without using illegal aids? That's not actually forbidding them from entering, any more than I'm forbidden from playing for Barcelona. I never will, but that's because I don't have the ability.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:15 PM
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So the handicapped can compete, as long as they have no chance of actually winning.

No one has a right to a chance at being an Olympic athlete. Yes, it's sad that some people don't have the genetics required to compete at a world level, but this doesn't mean that they are entitled to better equipment to create a "level playing field".

Olympic runners can't use the funky spring-soled shoes, and he can't use these funky cabon-fiber spring-leg hybrids.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:15 PM
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I do think "ask a 7 year old child what's fair" should be in the Democratic party's platform somewhere...


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:16 PM
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I still can't tell whether B is serious. But while it makes sense to me to deemphasize zero-sum sports competitions, it doesn't make sense to allow compensatory prosthetics so that crippled people can compete.

As I understand, these prosthetic legs are in several respects better designed and more efficient than meat legs.

Are there any transhumanists in the house?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:17 PM
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Modern technology has made the 100 meter dash irrelevant anyway. Just use technology to identify the fastest 100 meters at any point in each runner's 200 meter dash. It's guaranteed to be faster than any 100 meter dash, because of the running start.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:17 PM
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This is why some unknown from another sport should be allowed in to school them both.

It would be cool, but the odds of it happening are pretty much nil.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:17 PM
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Are there any transhumanists in the house?

All my comments here are produced by a personality upload (~7kb: how embarrassing)


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:18 PM
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I do think "ask a 7 year old child what's fair" should be in the Democratic party's platform somewhere...

This sounds like a panacea, but is doomed to failure. If you think normal polling depends on the wording of the questions, just imagine what kind of answers PK will give when all those Federalist Society clerks are putting together fact sheets for him.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:19 PM
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Are there any transhumanists in the house?

pdf23s got pretty emphatically driven off the last time he made transhumanist arguments.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:19 PM
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I still can't tell whether B is serious.

It brings a sense of the surreal.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:19 PM
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(~7kb: how embarrassing)

Awesome.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:20 PM
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So the handicapped can compete, as long as they have no chance of actually winning.

Yes. We aren't talking about running for president or entering a building. We're talking about the Olympics, which is a fundamentally exclusionary affair. This isn't junior high PE.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:21 PM
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This isn't junior high PE.

Hey, hey, let's not concede junior high PE just yet, ok?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:23 PM
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If you want to talk about unfair, how about the rule that only the top two swimmers at Olympic trials get to go to the Olympics from the US???

False start even though you are the best in the world? Dont get to go.

Hurt your back right before Olympic trials and you are the American record holder? Dont get to go even though you will be healed by the time of the Olympics.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:26 PM
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False start even though you are the best in the world? Dont get to go.

You can be the best in the world, but if you false start in the finals of the Olympics, you don't get a medal. Life is tough all over.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:29 PM
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319: That's the depressing part about Olympic competition for me. Six women make the gymnastics team. Someone's whole life might come down to one vault, or might never get there because she aged out before the next Olympics. Someone gets a cold and doesn't get to swim. Someone misses a hurdle and doesn't finish the race.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:30 PM
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I had a little lesson in the essence of sports when my son was in about sixth grade. Someone recruited him into a beginners' wrestling tournament for untrained wrestlers. (Obviously it was a way for the higher-grade coaches to scout talent).

They had a bracket system I'd never seen before. Wrestlers were put in single-elimination groups of eight, so there were three rounds. What was different was that every wrestler wrestled three rounds, including all the losers. So when my son lost his first two matches, he wrestled another kid who'd also lost his first two matches, and he won. The other lid, #8 and officially The Worst, started crying. My son was cool with being Not The Worst at #7.

Anyway, nice people who want the best for everyone do not understand sports and do not belong in sports. Sports are mean. (Contrast Music. Music has a competitive aspect, but you don't become better by making others worse. Or at least, that isn't central to the way music is organized)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:30 PM
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It would be cool, but the odds of it happening are pretty much nil.

You know, of all the events, high jumping has to be one of the most vulnerable to someone from the outside. I mean, think of all the springy people who also do other sports. The high jump record is 8 feet, but I've seen martial artists get close to that*, and they were just fucking around. The gymnasts sure look high at the top of a tumbling run. I bet some high strength to weight person who does another sport because it is more interesting could come in and upset highjumpers.


*A standard martial arts demo is to stand one black belt on another's shoulders and have the top guy holding a board as high as his arms reach. Springy black belt guy runs, jumps, breaks the board with a kick. It has to be at least two people tall (ten feet? and also, most of the guys on my team could run, jump and kick the basketball rim).


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:31 PM
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Megan, those movies aren't real.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:32 PM
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There is technique involved in high jumping, and I'm not sure how much of the technique is embedded in the rules. If it's not just 'get over the bar', and the gymnast can't do handsprings into it or take the run-up they want, I'd still bet on the high jumpers.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:34 PM
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319/320: This is why I never compete at the highest levels without my special shoes that start kicking as soon as they hear the distinctive tone that starts the race. You can only use them if you score at or below the level of "scatter-brained" on the Niebieszczanski-Duckling Test of Mental Focus.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:34 PM
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The fascination with hops continues!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:34 PM
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323: Except that there's some technique to the thing. The contest is how high a bar you can get your whole body over, not just how high you can get some part of yourself.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:34 PM
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John:

Dont screw with Megan. She is a badass.

One day, you will be walking down the sidewalk, minding your own business and 175 grams of plastic is going to bust you upside your head.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:35 PM
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Will, Megan isn't real.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:36 PM
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high jumping has to be one of the most vulnerable to someone from the outside...most of the guys on my team could run, jump and kick the basketball rim

No way, sis. This guy kicks the rim, but in the high jump, he would have to get his entire body over the point (roughly) where his head is when he does that. Very different, very difficult.

Alternative comment:
most of the guys on my team could run, jump and kick the basketball rim

That's your first clue that it's not equivalent to what the best high jumpers in the world are doing.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:38 PM
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I saw those demos with my own two eyes. I was relieved to also see one on YouTube, so it was sanctified by the internets and I could believe it. It is in the middle of some Tony Jaa stunts; I'll link it when I get to a computer that lets me access YouTube.

Cala - yeah. If the form is in the rules, then I'd go with the trained people. If they just have to hurl themselves over a bar, I think high jumping is as open for upset as any sport. (Which is probably not very, but not impossible either.)

Also, Emerson? Fuck yourself.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:40 PM
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Also, Emerson? Fuck yourself.

But not with a prosthetic! That would be cheating.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:41 PM
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Not that it wouldn't be cool, though, to have a competition of Most Awesome Awesome Athlete of the Games.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:42 PM
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This seems inconsistent with the rest of your position. I read you as saying that since the prosthetics permit him to compete, they are OK, and their actual performance is irrelevant. In 290: I would be making the same argument, yes, if he were running world record times.
So it seems like you're not quite certain on whether this notion of "unfair advantage" exists or not.

No, what I am saying is this:

1. People without limbs cannot compete in certain activites, as a simple matter of physical inability. There's not anything we can do about this, regulation-wise. It's just the way things are.

2. People without limbs can, however, compensate for their disabilities with the use of prosthetic devices. This requires us to start making decisions: should we require public buildings to construct entrances and restrooms so that disabled people using prosthetic devices can make use of the facilities? Should we require "reasonable accomodation" of the disabled in employment? Should we allow, or ban, disabled people with prosthetics from competing in sports events?

3. I believe that we should err on the side of inclusiveness, *until and unless it is demonstrated* that doing so is a problem. One person in the olympics, to my mind, is insufficient evidence one way or the other of a problem. *If* we get to the point where the presence of disabled runners using prosthetics is, in fact, fundamentally altering the sport to the point where able-bodied runners have no chance--if, that is, the sport starts looking like it's more a sport of competing prosthetic engineering rather than running (with, in very rare instances, the assistance of *necessary* prosthetic devices)--then it will be time to discuss creating separate sports.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:42 PM
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But see, Ogged, that's sorta my point. If most guys on a college tkd team can do that much, what are the folks that are Olympic level capable of?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:43 PM
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334


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:44 PM
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I had my shoulder repaired. They still let me compete.*


* "compete" includes the phrase "getting my ass kicked."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:45 PM
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ogged, it's true that in some niche sports where nobody makes any money there's a very small number of people who ever try the sport at all, so there would definitely be a possibility of a professional athlete deciding to do it in his spare time and becoming world champion. Sometimes you hear about an NCAA football player who gets noticed by the track coach one day, and six months later he's dominating the conference in the javelin or the triple jump or something.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:45 PM
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I guess I'm fantasizing that some Olympic athletes are in their sport by path-dependency, and could also be world class in other sports. And, um, just show up and try them spontaneously on the day of the competition. And win the whole thing!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:46 PM
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Megan is learning liberal-fascist argumentation fairly quickly for a girl.

There are no form rules for the high jump that I know of. You just have to get your whole body over the bar without knocking it off.

The trick is easing over a bit at a time, so that your center of gravity is below the bar while your parts successively go above the bar.

A 5'7" guy named Franklin Jacobs held the indoor record for a week or two sometime in 1978. He has since disappeared from the face of the earth after a period of homelessness.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:46 PM
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Yeah, that's true, Ned, but high jump isn't like that. It's true that most kids in the US who can jump play basketball, but high jump is still a big enough sport globally that someone untrained isn't going to compete seriously at the Olympics.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:47 PM
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The real trick under that scheme would be to smuggle a couple of top football players in under some penny-ante sport, and then put them into the actual football competition.

IOC wouldn't care -- the football competition is where a lot of the money comes from, and they want to host the best in the world, so you'd get away with it for a bit.

(Until Fifa got pissy and stopped it. But you'd have a funny couple of tournaments before hand.)

I bet you the Patriots could school the All Blacks six ways to Sunday at rugby, but I'd love to see them try it without much practice time.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:48 PM
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We seem to be coming back to B's intuitions as the measuring stick for all things.

As opposed to your intuitions. How unreasonable of me.

317: There's a fundamental difference between, "too bad, the luck of the genetic draw means you're never going to be a world-class sprinter" and "disabled people as a class are prohibited from compensating for their disabilities in x, y, or z situation."

I still can't tell whether B is serious.

I said I am serious. Feel free, however, to dismiss me as "trolling," as usual, if you happen to feel like blowing me off.

If you think normal polling depends on the wording of the questions, just imagine what kind of answers PK will give when all those Federalist Society clerks are putting together fact sheets for him.

I don't think that children are any more prone to being influenced by this sort of thing than adults. I do think that PK is probably so intelligent that he, personally, is less likely than most adults to be hoodwinked by bullshit.

I'm sure, however, that my opinion about *that* is ludicrous and unreasonable, too.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:49 PM
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340: I think that's plausible, but that they'd need the training first. Likewise, many divers start as gymnasts, but they still need to learn how to enter the water.

341: No rule on when you have to take off?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:49 PM
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some Olympic athletes are in their sport by path-dependency, and could also be world class in other sports

I'm sure that part is true.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:49 PM
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B wants the Giants to have to wait two mississippi before they blitz Favre, because he's an old motherfucker, and has slowed down some.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:50 PM
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`Love to see them try it' means I think it'd be an interesting game, not that I don't think they could.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:50 PM
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So is the rest of it! IS TOO!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:51 PM
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There's a fundamental difference between, "too bad, the luck of the genetic draw means you're never going to be a world-class sprinter" and "disabled people as a class are prohibited from compensating for their disabilities in x, y, or z situation."

What's a "fundamental difference"? I don't see a difference of kind there. It's a difference of degree. "The luck of the genetic draw" puts you into a "class" with other "disabled people" who "are prohibited from compensating" for the same reason.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:52 PM
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But the class of disabled people isn't prohibited. You're prohibited if you can't make time within the rules, which ban certain forms of artificial aids.

Most disabled people can't. Most able people can't either.

Why should it matter that the reason you fail is arbitrarily assigned to the pile `disability' and not the pile marked `variation'?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:54 PM
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We seem to be coming back to B's intuitions as the measuring stick for all things.

As opposed to your intuitions. How unreasonable of me.

Eh, I've said that I'd rather see Pistorius allowed to run, but also that there's no overarching principle to justify that preference. You're making what purports to be a broad argument about the rights of the disabled on the basis of your personal belief that Pistorius' prosthetics are close enough to human legs that the track and field authorities are required to treat them as such. If you've given us a way of measuring "close enough" that doesn't depend on your intuitions, I've missed it.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:56 PM
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I love the Olympics.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:56 PM
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331: You think that's regulation height? I'm not positive; in some shots (one of them is around 29 seconds) the distance between his head and the rim looks too little for someone who's 5'8".

335: People without limbs can, however, compensate for their disabilities with the use of prosthetic devices.

They can compensate for their disabilities in a wide variety of ways, including some which make use of wheels and/or internal combustion engines. You think this kind of compensation should be allowed in running but not other kinds because (I'm not positive about this, but I think) a) what it allows Pistorious to do looks sufficiently like what the other people in a race are doing and b) it doesn't seem to be that much of an advantage. Is this about right?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:56 PM
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I bet you the Patriots could school the All Blacks six ways to Sunday at rugby

Really?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:57 PM
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Other people have wondered about gymnasts as well. It occurs to me that gymnasts look like they're two or three times body height at the top of their tumbling run, but they're only three feet tall, so that probably isn't enough.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:57 PM
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B, I was sort of hoping you were trolling, because what you're saying is silly. Sports are about finding the gifted, not about being fair to everyone. A major Olympic event produces thousands of losers and one winner, and there's tons of unfairness.

As far as I know, there are no style rules for high jump. There's a time limit within which you must jump, I think. Other than that, getting over the bar without knocking it off is the whole story. (I googled "disqualification" + "high jump" and found nothing relevant.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:58 PM
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350: Okay, I'm not going to get into explaining the difference between things that affect individuals more or less randomly and things that affect classes of people by social decree. If you don't understand that, I'm not going to tackle it.

351: It matters because disabled people are discriminated against, *as a class*, by arguments about what they "can" and "can't" do, in direct violation of actual evidence. In this case, evidence that the guy can, in fact, run. Yes, with prosthetics, but his use of prosthetics is not about "boosting" his performance; it is about making his performance possible *at all*.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:58 PM
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Who was the guy who played baseball professionally and was in a World Series game and then became a professional football player? I'm sure that he'd played football before he joined the NFL, but I still think that's pretty damn impressive.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:59 PM
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Clearly it is not fair for a double-amputee to be allowed to compete with able-bodied runners if there's a real risk the double-amputee would win, or at the very least, beat some of the able-bodied runners.

It's exactly the same reasoning that led women's sports to be developed as a separate field from men's sports: if women are allowed to compete with men, there's a real risk that a woman will win.

Able-bodied runners don't want to be defeated by a cripple, so the double-amputee is going to be banned. Men don't want to be defeated by women, so women aren't allowed to compete with men.

Simple. What is all the arguing about?


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 5:59 PM
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OK, I now understand that B's point is to distinguish between "disabled people" who are unable to do something, and "non-disabled people" who are unable to do the same thing. So, never mind.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:00 PM
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B wants the Giants to have to wait two mississippi before they blitz Favre, because he's an old motherfucker, and has slowed down some.

And I want Vince Wilfork to be able to carry a sledge hammer Triple H style. We're not so far apart.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:00 PM
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351: And, this is relevant, not all artificial aids. If Pistorius were posting those times with an artificial knee, the IAAF would probably allow it (and no one would care, because he wouldn't be fast enough to qualify.)

In his case the problem seems to be that the equipment is too efficient, that it doesn't seem to be the same motion, and (to me this is key), his time has improved by seconds just by changing to the Cheetahs. Cheetah 2 comes out, he probably gets a few more seconds. He is undoubtedly an extraordinary athlete, but it's not comparable with an able-bodied elite runner.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:01 PM
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It occurs to me that gymnasts look like they're two or three times body height at the top of their tumbling run

I think the tumbling floor is also extra springy somehow.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:01 PM
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There is technique involved in high jumping, and I'm not sure how much of the technique is embedded in the rules.

Dick Fosbury pretty much singlehandedly revolutionized high jumping by adopting a then radical technique that became the new standard.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:01 PM
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The answer about gymnasts vs high jumpers says that the high jump must be launched off one leg. But that didn't come from the official rules.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:02 PM
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340: The athlete who I know of that comes closest to cross-sport pwnage was Jim Brown. He is regarded by many as the greatest lacrosse player ever (they basically changed the rules of play to slow him down, kind of an Alcindor/Jabbar no-dunking rule), at one point I know he still held the Long Island HS record for points in a basketball game and then there was um, yeah football. From other reports he seemed to excel at every sport he tried—Bill Russell had some great stories in his autobiography.

Plus he had an affair/romantic involvement with Gloria Steinem (as did Rafer Johnson).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:03 PM
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Jesurgislac: also not getting the point. People, I have to award this point to somebody before the night is up or else my entre function as a scoring judge is for naught. Step up your games.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:03 PM
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Yeah, B, that's because disabled people (like most people but more so) are not athletic. Separating the most athletic people, and the more athletic people, from the less athletic people and the least athletic people is what sports is all about. It's discriminatory in intention. It's not nice.

And what you're talking about would make a joke of what's being done.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:03 PM
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359: Bo Jackson


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:03 PM
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358.1: So why is it necessary to allow Pistorius to compete but not necessary to allow someone who has to use a wheelchair instead of prosthetic legs?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:04 PM
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But the double amputee requires aids that are in contravention of the rules.

He can run, but only by using aids which aren't allowed to anybody else. IOW, he requires a special set of rules, just for him.

At that point, he isn't competing in any meaningful sense.

You can't have special rules which say `you suck, but you can do x nobody else can', because that's a dumb sport, aesthetically.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:04 PM
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I missed the last 200 comments but am shocked to see that the thread is still more or less on original topic.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:04 PM
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368, see 196.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:05 PM
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Despite my efforts.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:06 PM
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Sports are about finding the gifted, not about being fair to everyone.

If it's not about being fair, then what is the ground for prohibiting prosthetics, again?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:06 PM
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It's exactly the same reasoning that led women's sports to be developed as a separate field from men's sports: if women are allowed to compete with men, there's a real risk that a woman will win.

I thought it was the fallout from the catastrophic mixed gender uneven bars.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:07 PM
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I missed the last 200 comments but am shocked to see that the thread is still more or less on original topic.

Lemme drag it off topic, then: Did you know that if you're on Facebook, you're supporting the neocons?


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:07 PM
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If it's about finding the gifted, then what is the ground for allowing people with prosthetics, again?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:07 PM
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I'm starting to hope that this thread will let me shut down the blog without anyone objecting.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:08 PM
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disabled people (like most people but more so) are not athletic.

Define "athletic."

But the double amputee requires aids that are in contravention of the rules.

Question-begging.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:09 PM
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I also can't believe B or some one hasn't started citing The Cyborg Manifesto yet.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:09 PM
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366: Are you suggesting taking off from the hands might give you more height? Because I'm looking at my (admittedly not world class) thighs and biceps/triceps/lats and thinking that's implausible. And a two-footed takeoff seems like it would cost you too much momentum, but I dunno.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:09 PM
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"Don't argue! You cannot win, you cannot beat a woman in a argument. It's impossible; you will not win. 'Cause men, we are handicapped when it comes to arguing cause we have a need to make sense." - Chris Rock


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:09 PM
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378: Wow, now THAT is a rambling article. I don't have time to read it now.

The points at the end appear to boil down to:
- You will be advertised to.
- If you make things public, they are public.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:10 PM
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The athlete who I know of that comes closest to cross-sport pwnage was Jim Brown

My vote goes to Jim Thorpe: won Olympic gold in the Decathlon *and* the Pentathlon, and was twice an all-American in football.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:10 PM
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I'm starting to hope that this thread will let me shut down the blog without anyone objecting.

Are you kidding? We are this close to an argument for forcing Floyd Merriwether to fight a bear.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:12 PM
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I just realized that what's irritating me about this thread is that I feel like it's 400 comments worth of begging the question. "It's not right for a man with prosthetic legs to compete because the rules say people can't use prosthetics."

I feel like I'm trying to say, okay, let's talk about why those rules exist, whether they should apply in this case, and if so, on what grounds, and everyone just keeps coming back to, "but those are the rules."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:12 PM
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359: Yep Bo Jackson. Other great 2 sporters.

Jim Thorpe (more than 2 - actually he probably belongs ahead of Jim Brown.)
Deion Sanders - FB, BB
Gene Conley - Baseball & Basketball -Celtics chanpionship
Jeff Conine - baseball, racquetball
Dave Winfield - drafted by 4 teams in 3 sports
A lot of Track sprinters/footballers like Bob Hayes
Michael Carter - Shotput & Football. (only person with Olympic gfold & Super Bowl ring)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:12 PM
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Dave Winfield was drafted into MLB, NBA, ABA, and NFL. Pretty impressive.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:13 PM
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384 would seriously piss me off if it were anyone but apo.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:13 PM
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pwned by Stormcrow, damnit


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:13 PM
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No, I wasn't suggesting alternate take-offs for the high jump. I was reponding to 357, which said that Emerson didn't know of anything that would dq a high jump. Now we have a rumor that anything but a one-legged take-off disqualifies a high jump.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:14 PM
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If it's not about being fair, then what is the ground for prohibiting prosthetics, again?

Because they're the wrong kind of unfair. Duh.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:14 PM
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I feel like I'm trying to say, okay, let's talk about why those rules exist, whether they should apply in this case, and if so, on what grounds, and everyone just keeps coming back to, "but those are the rules."

I think this is a fair summary. I also think people get a little religious about sports. I'm passionate about sports and don't want to see it tinkered with, and don't see enough of an ethical dilemma here to warant tinkering.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:14 PM
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Only sort of question begging. Were you not a double amputee, and you turned up with just an extra three inches in springs on the soles of your feet, you'd get sent home.

Same deal.

(And that's the only way I'd even get a look in at Olympic speed sprints, so the analogy is reasonably good.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:15 PM
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after a scan, i tend to agree with B, not expressly for her reasons but because i'm not convinced there is really such a thing as a representative "able-body."


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:15 PM
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I feel like I'm trying to say, okay, let's talk about why those rules exist, whether they should apply in this case, and if so, on what grounds, and everyone just keeps coming back to, "but those are the rules."

Seeing as the rules exist, the question is, why should there be an exception to the rules? You answer seems to be that not only is this man unable to compete without his prostheses, he's really, really unable to compete because he's part of a "class" that consists of nothing but people who are unable to compete.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:15 PM
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I feel like I'm trying to say, okay, let's talk about why those rules exist, whether they should apply in this case, and if so, on what grounds, and everyone just keeps coming back to, "but those are the rules."

What everyone keeps coming back to is 124. That is, that prosthetic dude is doing something fundamentally different.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:16 PM
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384 would seriously piss me off if it were anyone but apo.

You're just saying that because I'm handicapped.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:18 PM
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394 is funny.

Ned, putting "class" in scare quotes doesn't make the problem of discrimination against the handicapped a non-issue, you know.

Anyway. Now that I figured out why this thread is so frustrating, I feel much better and no longer care. Now I'm going to go hang up some laundry.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:18 PM
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400: No, I'm saying it because you're sexy. Ist. Yist. Pick whichever makes you feel better.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:20 PM
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not expressly for her reasons but because i'm not convinced there is really such a thing as a representative "able-body."

Actually, I think that if this is the only objection you have, the conclusion ought to be exactly the opposite. Here's why: the case in question would have it that certain technologies would be allowed only to people who DON'T have an "able body". Your body? Too able for supplementary springs! His? Disabled enough.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:20 PM
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124 is, indeed, correct.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:21 PM
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Yes, with prosthetics, but his use of prosthetics is not about "boosting" his performance; it is about making his performance possible *at all*.

No matter how many times you say this, it's still wrong. Artificial legs have been around for over 2000 years. They let amputees walk around with varying degrees of ability. More and more specialized artificial feet have been created, including ones that are biomechanically correct, and ones that are optimized for sprinting. Just like there are shoes that are optimized for walking around, and shoes that are optimized for running. There are rules regarding which shoes you can and cannot use when running in Olympic track events, and there are rules regarding which and which artificial limbs you can use.

The fact that this guy cannot be competitive with the permitted artificial feet is sad, but doesn't mean he should be allowed to use more and more specialized feet until he can finally make the qualification time.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:21 PM
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Ned, putting "class" in scare quotes doesn't make the problem of discrimination against the handicapped a non-issue, you know.

I can assure you that even if only one person in the world was without legs, and we had no preconceived notions about that man, he would still be ineligible to run in an Olympic footrace.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:22 PM
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Or, to rephrase, this guy's only allowed to use these aids because he's slow for one specific reason.

Most other reasons, and he'd get laughed at if he tried to pull this one.

So why should this reason merit a special rule permitting him to do it?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:22 PM
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I feel like I'm trying to say, okay, let's talk about why those rules exist, whether they should apply in this case, and if so, on what grounds, and everyone just keeps coming back to, "but those are the rules."

I sympathize to the extent that he should not be rejected out of hand. Per some discussion above, all of these marginal cases lead to a discussion of do we extend the meaning of sport event X to include this. So clearly here and in the world-at-large that discussion is happening. The vast majority are saying "No, we would not want to stretch the definition that far, it is not within the spirit of our understanding of sports and fair competition."

I think your continuing to accuse others of begging the question is begging the question of why you are being so obstinate on this.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:24 PM
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389: I would also put Eddie Eagan in the two-sport hall of fame, as the only person to have won a gold medal in both the summer and winter Olympic games (in boxing and bobsledding, respectively).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:24 PM
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no, you misunderstand me. i'm saying all the things that make our bodies differently abled - that make someone able to get about in pointe shoes or to need prosthetic limbs for mobility or to hear without hearing aids or to grow hair faster or whatever - i'm saying all of those things are, to my mind, degrees of difference. And that because of a system of categorization that puts things organic together and things synthetic (that's not quite right but I can't get my finger on it exactly) on the other side, the prosthetic limbs are unfair supplements, while the double-large lung capacity or extra long muscle fibers or contact lenses are not.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:24 PM
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boxing and bobsledding

There's a fantastic spectator sport waiting to be born from the marriage of those two.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:25 PM
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411 I can see the headline now: "Drunken Sledding Leads to Fisticuffs, IOC intrigued"


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:28 PM
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411: Better yet, a a biathlon with bobsleds instead of skis, run on parallel tracks with the ballast guys shooting at the other sled's runners.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:28 PM
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OT: I'm enjoying the way that Windows has truncated a document name to "Memo-Fu" to make it fit the windows bar. I could use me some of that!


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:30 PM
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389 et al. Charlie Pierce did a write up of, Deion, I think about how he got religion or something.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:32 PM
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I feel like I'm trying to say, okay, let's talk about why those rules exist, whether they should apply in this case, and if so, on what grounds, and everyone just keeps coming back to, "but those are the rules."

Well. At least now you're not talking about 'unfair advantage' anymore. Now the realization: the rules constitute the sport; the sport does not exist without the rules. Change the rules, change the sport.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:36 PM
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Change the rules, change the sport.

This is clearly not true. The rules of various sports change frequently, but we don't say that, say, basketball has suddenly become a completely different sport because of the three-point rule.

(Some people do, but they mean it hyperbolically, not literally.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:39 PM
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Which is why we bothered to make the argument that permitting prosthetics advanced in this particular way would indeed constitute such a big change rather than saying simply 'those are the rules.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:45 PM
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This is clearly not true. The rules of various sports change frequently, but we don't say that, say, basketball has suddenly become a completely different sport because of the three-point rule.

Alright. I'd also concede that the designated-hitter rule doesn't mean the American and National leagues play different sports. Allowing a person to attach springs to his stumps and race next to people with self-grown legs isn't a rule variation on that scale. It's more like the different classes of rules for the bicycle hour record (upright, diamond frame bikes versus recumbent, aero bikes). They're different competitions because different equipment is used.

The overall point is that a sport is nothing but its rules. A rule change on this scale isn't a trivial thing: it would constitute a different sport.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:45 PM
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This is clearly not true.

This is clearly not true. At some point you do change the sport by changing the rules. Many people are arguing that including an activity other than "running" in a footrace would constitute a fundamental change, and that using these prostheses is an activity other than "running".

Pwned on preview.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:46 PM
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420: Yes, and I have been arguing the opposite. In any case, what I meant by "this is clearly not true" is that it is clearly not true that *any* change of rules makes sport x --> not sport x. My contention is that this particular situation does not constitute such a change; y'all's contention is that yes, it does.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:49 PM
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Right, but that's different than characterizing the argument as stamp the foot, cite the rulebook and make disabled kids cry as you quash their dreams.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:54 PM
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if there were some ultimate authority body on all sports that could timelessly announce that X is the fundamental activity of Y sport (e.g. running is the fundamental activity of a footrace), then such a premise would be true, but even then X would be bound by the particular definitions of a particular historical moment, no? Which is to say there is a totally myopic framework in place here.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:55 PM
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422: I didn't do that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:55 PM
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Okay, let's try another example. In target shooting, which I believe is an Olympic sport, a big part of it is holding the gun rock-steady while you pull the trigger. Now, imagine an armless double amputee who wants to compete by using a metal tripod to hold the gun, aiming it by means of blowing into a series of tubes that nudge the gun up and down and side to side, and blowing into another tube to flip a pneumatic switch that fires the bullet. The tripod holds the gun rock-steady, and the tubes let him aim and fire precisely, with no unwanted jitters from a shaky hand at the last second.

My guess is that such a person would not, and should not, be allowed to compete. While you could argue that the tripod and tubes are the bare minimum he needs to perform the tasks the sport requires, they remove the human weaknesses (tiny, jittery muscle twiches in the hands and arms) that make the sport challenging in the first place.

Same with Pistorious. While his prosthetics are the minimum he needs to be able to run, they remove the human limitations -- storing and releasing energy via the ankle joint and calf muscles -- that make the sport challenging for the other competitors. Short of amputating themselves and strapping on similar prosthetics, they cannot enjoy the same advantage as Pistorious. You could argue that a truly dedicated athlete should cut his own legs off if that will give him an edge, but we as a society reject that argument, for what I hope would be obvious reasons.

Because Pistorious does not face the same challenges as an able-bodied athlete, he has an unfair advantage. Hence, he's out.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:57 PM
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423: you're in luck, then. There is just such a committee that decides the essential activity of an Olympic footrace! And other competitions have similar committees.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 6:59 PM
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i was thinking of somethign a bit more divine and unbounded by the limitations of history and ideology.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:02 PM
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Okay, see, 426 is the kind of thing I mean by question begging. Is it just me, or does that seem like a willful refusal to see what Sibyl's getting at in 423?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:03 PM
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it's not you.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:04 PM
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Thank you, sincerely.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:06 PM
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B, heebie answered the question in 124 (and I addressed it in 199). Everyone else seems to understand what sports are. You're talking about recess.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:07 PM
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425 is very good. 426 is not.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:07 PM
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426 was not serious. But, then, neither is constructing the Platonic games.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:08 PM
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428: It is just you. The rule-change you propose institutes a new sport, let's call it spring-racing, in which people attach springs to their legs or parts thereof and bounce around. That'd be great, and I'd watch it, but I'd also want to see a different sport, one in which people were only allowed to have shoes attached to their legs or parts thereof, and propel themselves in whatever fashion is necessary when one is limited by such equipment. I doubt we'd much want to see a spring-racer/shoe-racer crossover, any more than we'd want to see soccer players try to play soccer while wearing skates on ice. Cuz that'd suck.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:10 PM
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You seem to be thinking that saying 'What Pistorius does is sufficiently different from what two-legged runners do, and thus is ineligible for our current two-legged competition as it stands' is equivalent to saying that 'What Pistorius does is worthless because it doesn't adhere to the Form of Running.'

And the latter isn't really the issue, so I'm not sure how what Sibyl is saying is relevant. Of course what counts as a game is dependent on human-created and time-dependent rules. Of course those rules could change. That doesn't entail squat as to how to handle the Pistorius issue.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:11 PM
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I am serious though. I don't see how refusing to recognize the boundedness of these things by any cultural moment is serious.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:11 PM
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And really, B, you're full of shit. You weren't making anything like the reasonable point you claim to have been making. Look at your first comment in this thread back at 27.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:11 PM
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Ogged, I actually responded to both those comments. Really, considering that I've pretty much given up the argument, isn't "everyone else seems to understand what sports are" unnecessarily insulting?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:12 PM
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We're already 400+ comments into this thread, and no one has mentioned the killer argument why Pistorius should not be permitted to compete in the Olympics: Can you imagine the soft-focus, violin-accompanied biographical piece that NBC would run on this guy instead of broadcasting the medal round of judo or something?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:12 PM
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437: I truly don't see what the difference is between my 27 and "the reasonable point I claim to have been making." I am obviously not going to convince you or anyone else, but I've been arguing in good faith this entire time. As to whether I'm "full of shit," if you want to come over here and tongue my ass, you can find out.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:14 PM
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Well, I'm as annoyed as B. I think that much of what she says would make sense if we weren't talking about a competitive sport. Competitive sports are designed to favor the people who, among other things, have better bodies for sports. [B: "Define 'more athletic'"?!!!!!?] Having a better body for sports isn't the only thing, but it's a key, central thing -- skill is important too, training, etc.

As far as the "category of people" goes -- anything can be a category. What she means is "category covered somewhere by anti-discrimination law". I guess I just have to say that it would be wrong to discriminate against racial or religious groups in competitive sports, or people with various non-sports disabilities that don't effect their sports performance, I think that its loony to allow people with unathletic bodies do use equalizers to be able to compete.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:14 PM
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while i think the contingency of rules is relevant, what i'm saying is that our very concetoption of human and able-bodied and not supplemented are entirely contingent. that's what i see as the hear tof the matter.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:15 PM
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He would run faster if he had lower legs and their muscles. His prosthetics don't give him an advantage. They only allow him to compete.


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:15 PM
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Can we at least get some comity on 439? Sheesh.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:16 PM
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Really, considering that I've pretty much given up the argument, isn't "everyone else seems to understand what sports are" unnecessarily insulting?

Oh, you poor dear, as some have often said.

So, now that TJ has helpfully directed us to the rules, the question is more clearly than ever "Should the rules be changed to allow people like Pistorius to compete?" And most of us say no, because it would set a precedent for all kinds of weird stuff and change the very nature of the competition more than ought to be done, as 124 and 425 elegantly mentioned.

Now the question is how to define such concepts as "all kinds of weird stuff" and "more than ought to be done" so that robots in the future will be able to properly interpret our intent. Or it can continue to be decided by the people who have the option of changing the rules and thereby defining the nature of the competition. The question is should the rules be changed.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:18 PM
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what i'm saying is that our very concetoption of human and able-bodied and not supplemented are entirely contingent

This is why people make fun of humanities majors, you know. Entirely contingent? Really? Contingent at the margins, maybe (corrective lenses, maybe some other tweaks), but can you really point to a radically different conception of able-bodied somewhere in history?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:18 PM
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someone who works in disability studies can.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:20 PM
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443: Interesting! I would like to see people racing against each other using those things.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:21 PM
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and Foucault probably can too. listen, i am just a poor Victorianist trying to get through Adam Bede for Wed., but if I don't bring up these radical framework challenging questions, who will?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:21 PM
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Can not.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:21 PM
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442 is correct but irrelevant, as has been discussed above.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:21 PM
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if I don't bring up these radical framework challenging questions, who will?

I THINK WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:21 PM
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while i think the contingency of rules is relevant, what i'm saying is that our very concetoption of human and able-bodied and not supplemented are entirely contingent. that's what i see as the hear tof the matter.

I don't think anyone would deny that (see the comment about LASIK about 200 posts back; I've read baseball doofs actually trying to break down the effect the widespread adoption of LASIK has had on on-base percentage), but I don't think these Cyborg Manifesto-ish discussions are necessarily germane to the matter at hand. Obviously a lot of these matters are culturally determined, down to Avery Brundage's desire to keep women from defeminizing themselves by participating in the Olympics (or his shameful behavior regarding Jim Thorpe, for that matter). But in this particular historical moment, the lines of what constitutes "unmodified performance" are drawn where they are, and I don't think it's so strange to draw a sharp line that excludes the Cheetahs while including barometric chambers.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:22 PM
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446: Sure. Women were widely considered too frail not to be able to undergo the rigors of advanced academic study for a good few hundred years, roughly between the Renaissance and, say, the Edwardian era.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:22 PM
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454 doesn't address differing conceptions of able-bodiedness, but which people were said to belong to the class.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:24 PM
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I don't think anyone would deny that

Way to show me up, Ogged.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:24 PM
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455: Sure it does. "Able-bodied" meant "not having a uterus."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:25 PM
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443: It's actually hard to say whether he'd be faster with his own legs, had they developed normally. Because while it's true that he doesn't have any calf muscles to give him spring off of the ground, and that two-legged runners use the calf muscles to generate power, he runs now by using his hip muscles to push the springs into the ground. That motion wouldn't work, if his legs weren't springs. (And that's leaving aside all of the questions whether his natural legs would weigh more, or whether he would have had good feet and arches for running, or good form.) It's really a fundamentally different motion, even though it looks superficial similar. (Hence why I think it's a different sport.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:25 PM
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Sorry, snark.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:25 PM
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457 gets it right. Yeah, I think you fell into that one, Oggers.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:26 PM
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listen, the point is less the number of examples one can come up with than it is that the premise is true. and if the premise is true and if one can ge outside of one's headspace enough to admit that one's own categories are therefore implicated, then the discussion changes terms.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:26 PM
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I cannot express how insane I found this thread. Anyone who wants to say that competitive sports are a bad thing can do so. But what people are saying here belongs in a Coen brothers movie, or an NRO article about how stupid academics are.

OK: sports rules are contingent, culture-bound, and so on, Not universal Platonic laws. They have that in common with a lot of stuff, for example religious practices. This is like a non-Catholic marching into a Catholic church and explaining to everyone there what they really should be doing. And not only that, zeroing in at the point that the Catholics there contingently and culture-boundedly hold as their most central belief: "OK, this guy doesn't accept the Trinity, but you still have to accept him as a Catholic".

Because competition to see who performs best is central to sports, which discriminates against anyone who for any reason can't perform at a high level -- for example, because their body in any of a million ways isn't good enough.

And the use of prosthetics in sports has always been very limited. And there are a certain number of borderline cases, but this isn't anywhere near a borderline case.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:27 PM
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Also, I'm pretty sure that 455 is exactly the point I've been making all along--that the argument about the runner isn't about his being able bodied (I don't think that the olympic rules specify that one must be "able bodied" to compete), but that we currently define "people without legs" as un*able* (as a question of fact, rather than of regulation) to compete in olympic running sports, that here is a man who lacks legs who *can* compete in an olympic running sport, and that this makes the problem suddenly one of regulation: do people who lack legs but use prosthetics count as "able" to run, or not?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:28 PM
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No. Someone who in all other respects resembled a man but happened to have a uterus in his belly wouldn't have been considered not-able-bodied. They wouldn't even have known. I'm talking about functional definitions of able-bodied, defined, crazily, based on what one is able to do.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:28 PM
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Ok, I am completely finished with this discussion. Ridiculous, from first to last.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:29 PM
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the analogy in 462 presents a nice case for why analogies should be banned.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:29 PM
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So with you on 439, Knecht.

446 - I can't speak for all engineers, of course, but I'm always happy to make fun of humanities majors for being insufficiently grounded in the physical world.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:30 PM
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You know, I don't really think that women are like amputees or the disabled, it was a joke, but they seem to think so. Lord help us.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:30 PM
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do people who lack legs but use prosthetics count as "able" to run, or not?

No, they do not count as people able to run.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:31 PM
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Ridiculous, from first to last.

No it wasn't. Other athletes could totally beat Olympic high jumpers at high jumping if they wanted to.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:32 PM
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This is like a non-Catholic marching into a Catholic church and explaining to everyone there what they really should be doing. And not only that, zeroing in at the point that the Catholics there contingently and culture-boundedly hold as their most central belief: "OK, this guy doesn't accept the Trinity, but you still have to accept him as a Catholic".

You could have just linked to the Unfogged thread in which that happened.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:32 PM
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It's really a fundamentally different motion, even though it looks superficial similar. (Hence why I think it's a different sport.)

Right. And I think it's the same sport, not because I'm focusing on the superficial similarity, but because I think--subject to Ogged's correction that I don't understand sports, but am talking about recess insteaad, of course--that the point of sports isn't that everyone has to use the same *motion*, but that everyone has to perform the same task, according to the same rules.*

*And again, I think the problem hinges on the question of whether proesthetics are, *by definition*, "performance enhancing devices" (or whatever the official phrase is), or whether they are, in effect, functionally "legs" that allow a legless man to perform the same task according to the same rules. In other words, do they *enhance* his performance, or merely *enable* it?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:32 PM
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Now that ogged's gone, I want to point out that for all his recent tendency to mock the humanities majors, he studied Heidegger at the graduate level.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:32 PM
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B, 463 is a nice distillation.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:32 PM
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"Do people who lack legs but use prosthetics count as 'able' to run, or not?"

For competitive sports purposes, not. easy. Yes, a cultural line is drawn here. There are reasons for the cultural line. People who doubt these reasons are culturally out of tune with sports culture in a very deep way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:33 PM
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And again, I think the problem hinges on the question of whether proesthetics are, *by definition*, "performance enhancing devices" (or whatever the official phrase is), or whether they are, in effect, functionally "legs" that allow a legless man to perform the same task according to the same rules. In other words, do they *enhance* his performance, or merely *enable* it?

Do you reject the possibility that there might be performance-enhancing and non-performance-enhancing prosthetics, and that it's reasonable to ban the performance enhancing ones?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:35 PM
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I am not out of touch with sports. And I understand that there are reasons, obviously, that lines get job. I'm sayign, among other things, they aren't divinely inspired reasons, ferchrissakes.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:35 PM
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And I understand that there are reasons, obviously, that lines get job.

I see.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:37 PM
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"that lines get job"? that lines get drawn.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:37 PM
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469 is a statement, not an argument.

464: Okay, I know Ogged has left so it's kinda crappy to keep arguing with him, but again: "Someone who in all other respects resembled a man but happened to have a uterus in his belly" is, I'm afraid I don't know what the proper term is, but it's introducing a counterfactual hypothetical. They were aware, back then, of hermaphrodites, *and* hermaphrodites were considered monsters. There would have been (and in some cases, I'm sure, was) a great deal of debate, of precisely the nature of the discussion we're having here, about whether such a person was a man (and thus capable of, say, studying philosophy) or a woman (and thus, not capable of it). I'm willing to bet that the presence of the uterus would, by definition, have put him/her in the latter category, since it was that organ tha was believed to be damaged by studying.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:38 PM
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For purposes of climbing stairs and going around the house, prosthetic devices are legs. For the purposes of competitive sports, they are not. For job-performance purposes, if the prosthetics make doing the job possible, they're legs. But sports competition is not a job.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:39 PM
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472: It's not by definition, because the rules don't say 'no prosthetics.' They looked at the individual prosthetics and found that the way they transmitted force was different enough from how running usually works that, although there isn't a changeless form of running, a competition between Pistorius and a top runner wouldn't, as 124 said, be measuring the same kind of athletic prowess.

This has nothing to do with being a closet disability hater or not recognizing that the rules of sport are socially constructed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:39 PM
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is a statement, not an argument.

It's an answer to a question you asked. You didn't have a followup?


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:40 PM
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458: I don't know much about much, but I'm pretty sure that this is running. But I should mention this too.


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:41 PM
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I had such a crush on Donna Haraway. I tried to reroute a college roadtrip to get her to come with us, but Santa Cruz is way far from the freeway.

Don't fuck with Sybil Vane on sports. She'll bite ya.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:41 PM
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I'm sayign, among other things, they aren't divinely inspired reasons, ferchrissakes

You're right - they're intersubjectively determined.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:41 PM
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Like the Trinity.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:42 PM
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481: Okay, I understand what you're saying. Do you understand why I (and Sibyl, and presumably LeBlanc) are saying that what you are saying is basically arbitrary, in the absence of any further explanation of *the basis* on which you are making that distinction?

I assume that "sports competition is not a job" is something we can agree is a *description*, rather than an *articulation*, of that basis.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:42 PM
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I will repeat, expanded:

Yes, a cultural line is drawn here. There are reasons for the cultural line, and people involved in sports are committed to these reasons. People who doubt these reasons are culturally out of tune with sports culture in a very deep way. There are borderline questions about where the line is exactly, but this particular question is not a borderline question. To try to pretend that it is one is to attack sports culture itself.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:44 PM
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481: Okay, I understand what you're saying. Do you understand why I (and Sibyl, and presumably LeBlanc) are saying that what you are saying is basically arbitrary, in the absence of any further explanation of *the basis* on which you are making that distinction?

What is it you think 'arbitrary' means? The rules constituting a footrace are not arbitrary by any conventional definition I'm aware of - they're set for a specific purpose, and certainly not done by fiat or according to an individual's whim.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:46 PM
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I found the thread pretty interesting, personally. It's unusual to see an argument break down completely around incommensurate world views, with no real possibility of communication.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:47 PM
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482: Yes. I understand the basis on which they reached the conclusion they reached. I am saying that I disagree with it, because *I do not understand* what the *specific* nature of the difference between (how Pistorius runs vs. how Wilma Rudolph runs) and (how Andre Aggasi serves vs. how hypothetical tennis player who twists his arm in a different direction or at a different part of the stroke serves) is, or what it is based on. It seems to me a question of degree, rather than an absolute distinction, and as such, subject to debate/discussion/analysis.

And again, I have not accused anyone of being a closet disability hater.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:48 PM
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489: Fine. Nonetheless, sports people should, I think, bear the burden of having to articulate those reasons beyond simply asserting that they exist.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:50 PM
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I think arbitrary, in this context, basically means not emerging from Absolute Truth, to make it simple.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:50 PM
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It's unusual to see an argument break down completely around incommensurate world views, with no real possibility of communication.

Are you new here?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:51 PM
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I'm sayign, among other things, they aren't divinely inspired reasons, ferchrissakes.

I don't think anyone disagrees with that. People have expressed differing degrees of allegiance to Sports As We Know Them, but no one's asserted that God would be insulted if Pistorius were allowed to compete, only that they'd be less interested in watching. Which, yeah, kind of sad, but it's not reasonable to expect an umpity-billion dollar enterprise to risk its business model just because there happens to be one guy who, with his current prostheses, might just be able to hit the sweet spot of competitive but not too competitive and thereby become a Heartwarming Tale Of Triumph Over Adversity rather than a Whiny Cheater Who Wants To Play Tennis With The Net Down.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:52 PM
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And again, I have not accused anyone of being a closet disability hater.

There's still time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:52 PM
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If you look at the news accounts, you'll see that the authorities didn't deny that Pistorius was running. Rather, they claimed that the prosthetics gave him an advantage.


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:52 PM
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496: And yet the "unfair advantage" Bonds got through performance enhancement made the industry tons of money.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:53 PM
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"Brueggemann said this did not necessarily translate to a general advantage. But he did establish that this "different kind of locomotion" was also more efficient from a physiological standpoint."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:55 PM
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499: yes, until the word got out, and then it caused a giant scandal, which you might have heard about.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:55 PM
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come on, the scandal made even more money. unfair advantages are good copy.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:56 PM
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B, whether or not you sort of enjoy sports, you're really completely out of tune with sports culture. I never was a good athlete or an obsessed fan, and I lose interest by the year (my Randy Moss shit aside), but I do understand the kind of thing that's going on.

There just isn't much emphasis in the sports world on anything compensatory, because the whole point of the action is to sort athletes into winners and losers, and for every sport the devices and widgets athletes can use are pretty narrowly fixed and standardized. Sportswise, amputees are automatic losers in almost every sport. Statistically, though, they're just the same as the average guy that way, because in the end everybody loses but one. But amputees lose first.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:56 PM
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Nonetheless, sports people should, I think, bear the burden of having to articulate those reasons beyond simply asserting that they exist.

Seriously: not to you. You're too much out of sympathy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:58 PM
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502: made money for who? How do you figure?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:58 PM
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Athletes should be disqualified if they have had eye surgery.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:58 PM
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499: Which is why it's possible for me to agree that the world would be a better place if Pistorius were allowed to compete without trying to make grandiose claims about sports and disability. I'm fine with altering Sports As We Know Them, but many aren't, and it's kinda of nuts to be unable to understand what they're saying.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 7:59 PM
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Cala is trying to be reasonable here while we all ignore the point that there are prosthetics which would theoretically be permissible in the Olympics because running with them involves similar muscular accomplishments to running with legs.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:01 PM
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oh you know, lots more for the commentating industry to talk about, mull over, etc. I don;t know. this thread is making me bleary.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:02 PM
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500: I guess I stand corrected. But if Brueggemann thinks that Pistorius isn't running, I think he's mistaken. What Pistorius is doing is much closer to running (or any other kind of locomotion) than dunks, lay-ups, jump shots, and sky hooks are to one another, and no one denies that those are all cases of shooting a basketball.


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:04 PM
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500: Right. But I mean, okay, so let's say that Agassi serves in a way that is more efficient, from a physiological standpoint, than anyone else. Does that mean he should be disqualified from tennis? And if not, what is the basis of the distinction?

Would the answer be different if Agassi's serve was different because, say, he'd been born with tendons that wrapped backwards around his elbow?

I'm assuming that in both cases, no, he wouldn't be disqualified. So the only reason I can come up with for the difference is that Agassi is born with his physiological efficiency, whereas P's is a function of running with prosthetics. (Let's assume, for minimal variables, that P wasn't born without legs, but that this is something that happened in an accident.) Is it really about physiological difference, or is it about physiological difference *as a consequence of man-made prosthetics*?

Okay, so, clearly it's the latter. This is where I *think* the disability issue comes in. I get that (I think) the olympic committe is saying, in effect, "it doesn't matter *why* he has the prosthetics; what matters is that man-made prosthetics are banned." Okay.

But doesn't this sort of duck a fairly fundamental problem, i.e., the question of whether it is (or is not) unfairly discriminatory to say that someone who *needs* prosthetics to run--not just to run in the Olympics, but to run at all, period--is banned from using what are, in effect, his "legs", to compete in a sport, given that he is performing that sport to the best of his ability? (Assuming, for the sake of argument, that his ability is good enough to get a qualifying time.)

It seems to me like banning a class of people, not because they can't do the activity (they can--using their [prosthetic] legs), but because the means by which they do it is, simply put, different. And I don't see why that difference is a question of their (his) following different rules as opposed to simply using a different sort of motion in the Aggasi sense, *if* we allow that the prosthetics are, for him, "legs."

And if we don't allow that, then I don't understand why.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:07 PM
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And if we don't allow that, then I don't understand why.

Oh well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:09 PM
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i gotta go be a cyborg with somethng else for awhile. maybe wii.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:11 PM
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you're really completely out of tune with sports culture

Isn't this an ad hominem? And therefore, you know, kind of irrelevant to the argument at hand? I'm completely serious: all I'm asking is for someone to give me a clear explanation of why the basis for disallowing this guy is not, effectively, a form of discrimination.

Seriously: not to you. You're too much out of sympathy.

Hrmgr. Snarky response: I'll use this the next time someone wants to argue with me about feminism and see how far it gets me, shall I? Non-snarky response: clearly, I'm not completely insane in asking what the grounds of disallowing the guy are, since, after all, the *point* of the post is that telling him he can't compete is, in fact, a *controversy*.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:11 PM
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Cala is trying to be reasonable here while we all ignore the point that there are prosthetics which would theoretically be permissible in the Olympics because running with them involves similar muscular accomplishments to running with legs.

And a not-insignificant amount of mechanical advantage added (a variable the IOC either does not want or is unable to control for).

Is it possible it's physics that's the problem here?


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:12 PM
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I haven't read most of this thread, but I see (from word searching) that wheelchairs have come up. People have asked why wheelchair racers and runners can't compete side by side; what I'd like to know is why wheelchair races seem to be limited to people who have a lower-extremity disability. I'm almost certain this is required by rule. But can't anyone have a chair designed for them that would meet agreed-upon standards?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:12 PM
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mrh: I'm not getting you.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:12 PM
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516: Crazy girl who doesn't understand sports at all assumes that in a wheelchair race, anyone could compete, as long as they were sitting in a wheelchair.

(Maybe the wheelchair race people have a rule that you have to be actually *disabled*, in which case fine, since they're *actually saying it in so many words.*)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:14 PM
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I guess I'd just end up saying that competitive sports is about seeing what performance can be without compensating for disability. More or less the opposite of egalitarianism or charity.

In every sport (and also in things like ballet), many, many, many tremendously talented people see their careers ended because of injury. Often their careers end before they've really started (in HS or college). People feel sad about this and sympathize, but taking your lumps is pretty central to competitive sports.

Reconstructive surgery is getting better and better, and this is regarded as legit (above all if the athlete was already good). There are a lot of doubts about drugs -- steroids are suspected even though they are the legit drug of choice for many kinds of injury. But total rebuiling or replacement of a limb isn't near the borderline. Still less a prosthetic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:16 PM
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OH, wait. I get what you're saying, eb: why aren't there, say, mechanical wheelchairs in wheelchair races? Presumably because the thing does have to be under the racer's own power, or however one would phrase that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:16 PM
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514.1: There is a difference between effective and intended discrimination; K/wame A/ppiah makes this point, and notes that it is or was (IIRC) part of the Supreme Court's definition of illegal discrimination.

The intention in banning mechanical aids is not to exclude disabled people, it is to prevent mechanical aids from taking over the sport.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:16 PM
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514: It's like saying that you're not a Catholic -- you're really more like an anti-Catholic, to continue the analogy. Butt out, because you don't like that world. Work to reduce the footprint of sports everywhere. Seriously. You don't get it. You're Ian Paisley trying to reform the Church.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:18 PM
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Further to 521: if the effective discrimination is not excessively deleterious, and if the intended reason that results in the effective discrimination is good (and, as all the sports fans here have noted, keeping sports from becoming battles between transhumans is), then it is justified.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:18 PM
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521: Right, so presumably the OC isn't going to have this rule thrown out by the SCOTUS. But the question is, is it fair? Or that would be the question, if one wanted to keep going with this argument.

That said, I tend to think that overreliance on "intent" is a mistake, but that in this particular case, this is the best explanation in the entire thread, and it makes sense to me. I am content. Cool. Thank you.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:18 PM
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522: John, at this point you're really kind of off in your own world. Let's not make the argument about me; I genuinely am interested in the question itself.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:20 PM
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I wonder if John is off in his own world because everybody else who agrees with him has given up on saying the same things over and over, to apparent incomprehension?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:23 PM
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I am content. Cool. Thank you.

Fuck me, I was hoping this could distract me from grinding out another page about how Mike Huckabee is a dispensationalist.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:23 PM
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520 is not what I'm saying; the rules for some road races I looked up say that the wheelchairs have to be powered manually, although there are distinctions between "regular" wheelchairs and "racing" - I assume more aerodynamically designed - wheelchairs.

Anyway the rules set out here - which I should note that I've only skimmed - mention a "minimal disability." They also set out a detailed classification scheme separating people with different kinds of disabilities who then - I think - have to compete within those classifications. Presumably, Pistorious would not be allowed to compete in all of those classifications.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:26 PM
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528: Oh. Well, presumably the reason wheelchair racers have to have a lower-body disability is because people with upper-body disabilities don't have to use wheelchairs, and therefore said wheelchairs would be seen as, effectively, "enhancement" type devices, rather than extensions of their bodies?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:28 PM
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I wonder if John is off in his own world because everybody else who agrees with him has given up on saying the same things over and over, to apparent incomprehension?

Yes.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:29 PM
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My error here is continuing to argue. Everyone else has quit.

It really is about you. You're really functionally hostile to, and deaf to, the cultural practice that you're trying to reform. It's like saying that tone-deaf people should be allowed to sing in music contests, with the help of devices to correct their singing. I don't know how many more ways I can say it.

The answer to your question would be, "These prosthetics are like steroids, but a lot worse." The borderline now is at the steroid level. It may end up moving, partly because it's so hard to enforce. But that doesn't mean that everything else whatever will have to be allowed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:29 PM
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B, I'm really tired and trying to write my mom's cover letter without sounding like a terse robot, so I promise you a more in-depth answer to you later, but the short one re: Agassi is that 'it would depend on the technique' (the use of dolphin kicking in swimming is a good example), and Ned's already made the point that it would depend, also, on the type of prosthetic, too. So I don't think the issue is just artificial vs. natural, as it includes considerations of what is interesting to watch or theoretically attainable by other people or at least ensures that everyone, like 124 said, is playing the same game. And I think destroyer is right about the role of intent here, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:30 PM
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Wheelchair racers compete only with other wheelchair racers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:31 PM
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mrh: I'm not getting you.

You mean my attempt at hilariously wry comedy failed? (*sobs*)


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:33 PM
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531: Fine, I'm hostile and deaf to sports. Whatever you say.

I am not, however, stupid, and I am capable of understanding a coherent and well-founded argument if one is presented to me.

532: Right, I realize there are other issues, I was just trying to simplify/boil down. That said, I think those other considerations are still awfully fuzzy and have seemed to rely, in this thread at least, on the "well, because we say so" kind of argument more than on actual, you know, *arguments*.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:42 PM
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Also, Cala, you really don't *have* to answer me. Truly.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:44 PM
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OK, last try. To say "This is a cultural question" is not to say "Because it's cultural, it's not absolute or universal, so we can doubt it and question it".

It's more like saying "This is a cultural question, and so we really can't be completely sure why it is the way it is, so it's hard to doubt and question it." It's not like it's a math problem where one answer is right and the other wrong.

And beyond that, you sort have to be part of the culture before you can understand why it's the way it is. In this case, I'd say the reasons why are pretty deep in the culture. Sports has resisted some much smaller changes very bitterly, but cultures are like that.

So formally this is like the South and segregation. So we have to ask, is not letting this guy compete in races wrong the way segregation, restriction of voting rights, and lynching were wrong? Is sports culture, like segregationist culture, so wrong that it should be changed from the outside? I can't see that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:51 PM
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mrh, are you following up on my attempt to follow up on your joke? My sleep-befogged brain can no longer tell. Maybe communication really _is_ impossible.

B, John's point is that sports are all senseless social convention. They can't, by their nature, be made sense of, so your request of a sensible argument is a category mistake. Sometimes we can force a sport to change for a higher purpose (i.e. anyone who thought major league baseball was for white people only had to lump it), but we can't just force a sport to change in any way. A world in which track and field allows prosthetics, is not one where prosthetic'ed athletes come to dominate. It's a world in which track and field ceases to exist as a sport.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:51 PM
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537: The way I figure it, sports would have become more open to people with disabilities in good time, at its own pace, if those outside agitators hadn't started interferin'.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:55 PM
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Maybe my mom should get some prosthetics so she actually looks like a terse robot.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:57 PM
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The difference is that this is a practice, with internal goods that happen not to square with having a dude bounce along the track on bendy plastic things.

Schooling and voting, in the South or wherever, is not an end in itself. Competitive running is.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 8:58 PM
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Hrm.

1. "This is cultural, so it's hard to doubt and question" and "because it's cultural, we can doubt and question it" are not, you know, mutually exclusive.

2. Maybe one has to be part of a culture to have an intuitive *sense* of why it works a certain way. I don't think one has to be part of it to understand it, though. And in any case, it's not like there's anything *wrong* with saying, why does this work the way it does?

3. Anyway, while sports may produce culture, I don't think I'm willing to grant sports full on "culture" status. Subculture, *maybe*.

4. Regardless, while it is true that cultures and ideologies contain incompatible ideas, it is also true that the rules of a given competition do sort of require some kind of explanation. Intelligent and sincere people should be able to understand the explanation, and find it at least reasonably convincing, in order for said sport to continue to have any kind of significance whatsoever. (I'm not talking about stuff like "football is boring and stupid," which, while true, is admittedly neither a sincere nor particularly brilliant attempt to, you know, *understand* the damn game.)

5. Seriously weak analogy. A thing doesn't have to be as bad as lynching in order for us to have a moral claim on changing it. More to the point, I haven't actually been arguing that the damn sport should be changed--I've been arguing that a runner using prosthetic limbs is *not* a fundamental change to the idea of running.



Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:00 PM
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I'm a bit more saying that sports is a way of discriminating between better performing athletes and worse performing athletes, and that trying to make it non-discriminatory is inane.

Sports have various ways of drawing the line as to what kinds of devices and aids can be used to help individual athletes, and even though the exact place where the line is drawn can't always be explained exactly, the right to draw a line somewhere can't be questioned, especially considering the discriminatory purpose of the enterprise.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:01 PM
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B., you can't doubt and question, because you're not part of the culture. What you have to do is show that the culture as it exists is harmful and wrong enough to justify legal intervention.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:03 PM
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538: Social conventions can be explained and examined, yes, they can. And they can actually be changed. Certainly in this case, the *entire point* of having a committee that sets rules is to deal with changes as they happen.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:03 PM
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544: What? I'm not advocating for legal intervention. By what authority are you saying I'm not part of the culture of watching track and field at the freaking Olympics, anyway? Is there anyone here who is a huge track and field fan??

Where are you getting this?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:05 PM
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Sports is entertainment. Think of it as a cuisine. Would you go into a Chinese restaurant and tell them they had to cook differently? Would you go into a Catholic church and correct them on the trinity?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:05 PM
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BP, this may go horribly wrong, but I think I see what you are driving at and will attempt to recreate it. (Although I think it is a very weak argument in this case.)

One can imagine a time when some group was excluded from a sport, because prevailing cultural norms would view the very nature of their participation as 'not in the spirit of the sport', maybe they were viewed as too animalistic, too sly or too you name it. Whatever it is they are excluded in some sense because of the way they performed (or were perceived or feared to perform) the key activity(s) of the sport were basically viewed as "inhuman" or unmanly or whatever. They were not accorded full status as human beings in this particular way.

Now fast forward to a time when the general notion of "running" has been extended to include what you do with your legs or prosthetics, even if they are quite fancy. A "running" race in that time and culture might seem oddly constrained if simply confined to those with their born legs. There might be a subcategory race, like an age group race today, but there would definitely be an "open" category. To categorically deny this possibility then is to deny the person with the prosthetic a small element of what it means to be fully human.

Please disavow this if I have missed horribly.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:07 PM
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And that committee recognizes that this particular rule change would spell the end of the sport.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:07 PM
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Aargh: because of the way they performed (or were perceived or feared to perform) the key activity(s) of the sport were basically viewed as "inhuman" or unmanly or whatever


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:09 PM
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If a Chinese restaurant refused to hire Vietnamese cooks, I would argue in a blog thread that that was wrong, yes.

Anyway, John, whatever argument it is you think is happening here is weird. And it makes me wonder, would you accept it if I were to say "you're not a woman, so you're not part of the culture, so you're not allowed to question and argue"?? Because I seriously think that I have been repeatedly taken to task for supposedly doing that (though I maintain that that is *not* what I'm doing), and yet here you, at least, seem to think it's perfectly okay. Whence the bizarre double standard here?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:09 PM
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549: See, "recognizes" implies that there's some kind of Eidos of Running that the committee somehow has magical access to. Which is clearly silly.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:10 PM
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552: Not really. It simply implies that there is a commonly accepted understanding of the sport, and the committee is in charge of determining what is and isn't in accordance with that understanding.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:13 PM
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Why magical access? Presumably the people who run track are themselves track fans, and know why people want to watch track?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:14 PM
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Actually, I used to be a track and field fan.

But no, you're heavily invested in the anti-discrimination community, and vaguely if at all involved in the sports community, which this dialogue has convinced me you're in fact pretty deaf to, whether you know it or not, so on the example you gave, you're like Ian Paisley trying to help out the Catholics.

The discriminatory purpose of sports seems alien to you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:15 PM
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I think actually they "recognize" what the results might be if they made certain rule changes, so they decide to, or decide not to.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:17 PM
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551: That was too stupid. I think that I clearly asked whether you would ask the cooks to cook differently (change their recipes.)

The bizarre double standard comes from the recognition that particular culture have the right to maintain their practices, as long as they do not violate some overriding public law, without caring whether people not in the culture agree or disagree. Do you believe that you have the right to butt in everywhere?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:20 PM
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552: No, it implies that you have to give a shit about running (and competitive athletics) before you start telling people how it is, and frankly, I don't believe that you do -- any more than Ian Paisley (or I) gives a shit about the Catholic Church.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:23 PM
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Perhaps we should put this to rest. If I argue any longer I'll turn into a Republican.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:25 PM
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B, you would probably claim that someone who believed passionately that God created women to serve men was not qualified to have a discussion about feminism. You'd probably also quickly grow impatient at his repeated refusal to accept basic principles.

Similarly, the purpose of world championship sporting events is mostly to see who can put together the best combination of genetics, dedication, luck, and skill to perform a largely arbitrary task to a largely arbitrary standard. The fact that someone without legs cannot run as fast as someone with them is part of the point, not something to be corrected. You say "you're telling the disabled that they can't do this because of who they are", and sports replies "Yes."


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:26 PM
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This is just about dead, but B's Agassi point opened up to me a new insight into how she's wrong:

If Agassi's elbow blew out, he'd be permitted to have it repaired, including metal parts if necessary. He would NOT be permitted to have a bionic (e.g., one that bent a different way, or actually included a spring) elbow put in. Does that make sense to you? Do you see the distinction there? And if so, do you see why the IOC took a close look at P's prosthetic and said, "Nope."?

Because the IOC recognizes that certain individuals may have disabilities - whether genetic or accidental - that require technological repair. And they recognize that, to keep competition meaningful, those technological repairs should be repairs - not enhancements. So they determined that P's prosthetic is not a repair, but an enhancement, for reasons that have been explained approximately 400 times at this point.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:41 PM
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This is just about dead

Indeed. New topic: should these guys be allowed on the dog tracks?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:44 PM
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562: Goddamn purebreeding. That said: Yes!


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:47 PM
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562: that would be goddamned hilarious.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:49 PM
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562: Can a real Segway Man be far behind?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:52 PM
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Can a real Segway Man be far behind?

Well, I've been meaning to save the surprise for a meetup, but, since you mentioned it....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:54 PM
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I don't want anyone to get too excited, but the first revelation of MacWorld is here:

BeeGees on iTunes!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 9:55 PM
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let's say that Agassi serves in a way that is more efficient

Let's use Roddick.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:05 PM
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562: Oh hell yes.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:08 PM
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Let's use Roddick

Like Federer does? That would be mean.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:09 PM
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568: I love that ad.

I also like the way he serves; hell with this weird loopy around the back shit. Just hit the ball.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:14 PM
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Speaking of awesome ads, and running, this one has been on my mind all thread.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:20 PM
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#443: He would run faster if he had lower legs and their muscles. His prosthetics don't give him an advantage. They only allow him to compete.

The analysis you link to considers power, but ignores weight. When you want to find out how fast something can go, you need to look at the power-to-weight ratio. A low power-to-weight ratio explains why a motorcycle can out-accelerate a car, even though the motorcycle has a much less powerful engine.

Even if Pistorious's carbon-fiber prosthetics yield less propulsive force than a normal athlete's lower leg leg muscles, they also weigh much, much less than a full set of lower legs and feet. A meaningful analysis would take this fact into account.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:47 PM
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It seems to me that there are a couple other assumptions not yet poked at, so what the heck, I'll poked.

My view is that we're in really early days for this kind of thing. I happen to have been reading recently about the early days of heavier-than-air flight, and while I'm not going to tempt the analogy-ban gods, I do think there are some real similarities. In the first few decades of the 20th century, speed, distance without refueling, and a bunch of other measurable stats changed significantly for airplanes every year, and people trying to set up competitions and benchmarks had to constantly revise as goals went from appearing obtainable but currently out of reach to barely reachable to routine.

Early mail flights were actually slower at transcontinental distances than trains thanks to the demands of maintenance along the way, and this is what reminded me of Pistorius' situation - right now he's somewhere near the edge of the stock human model's capabilities when it comes to sprinting. But we have every reason to believe that in a few years, the same tech he's using (or something even better) will put someone well beyond what anyone with the stock model can ever hope for.

I assume that the long-term solution will be the same kind of arrangement that exists in a lot of fields, as Sifu Tweety, JP Stormcrow, and others have pointed out: multiple kinds of competition. Some will define capabilities very tightly, others more loosely, and we'll all find out what people at large want to watch. I speculate that it'll vary a lot by sport, with many surprises, and that in some fields one set of criteria will dominate and in others rival takes will all be popular. But be as that may, the key reality seems to me to be that what's available to do is changing rapidly and will for some while yet, and that we're just leaving the realm of more or less feasible one-size-fits-nearly-all standards for this kind of activity. Collectively we've coped with it before; we will again.

Looking at the history of the Olympics so far, I'd guess that they'll become a realm of moderate augmentation, with purist rivals on one side and anything-goes competitions on the other. But that's just about where on the emerging spectrums the imperatives of finance and publicity will end up, not about what the spectra themselves are.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:49 PM
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Do you believe that you have the right to butt in everywhere?

I believe that I have the right to *discuss* publicly posted topics. Which is the only thing happening here.

you would probably claim

I would, huh?

that someone who believed passionately that God created women to serve men was not qualified to have a discussion about feminism.

Not necessarily. And I don't see what that has to do with sports. The purpose of sports is to see who has the best combination of genetics, chance, and skill, huh? I thought it was to see who could run the distance fastest. How is my thinking this equivalent to a belief that god created women to serve men?

You'd probably also quickly grow impatient at his repeated refusal to accept basic principles.

I might. And experience suggests that if I did, you guys would jump down my throat for it.

I swear to god, the next time I'm accused of imputing motives to people, misrepresenting what they say, ad homineming them, and all the rest of it, I am going to link back to this thread.

(Probably not, because I'm too lazy.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 10:59 PM
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Not necessarily. And I don't see what that has to do with sports. The purpose of sports is to see who has the best combination of genetics, chance, and skill, huh? I thought it was to see who could run the distance fastest. How is my thinking this equivalent to a belief that god created women to serve men?

If the goal was to see who could run the distance the fastest, steroid use would be encouraged, the track would be replaced with a huge trampoline, and people would wear those damn aerobic stilts linked repeatedly above. But they don't.

The similarity to the belief about women is that coming from a completely different set of basic principles makes it very hard to have a useful conversation.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:10 PM
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And the idea that we're coming from a completely different set of principles is based on Emerson saying so, as far as I can tell.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:13 PM
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Well, that and the fact that you don't seem to have heard what anybody else was saying.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:17 PM
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And the idea that we're coming from a completely different set of principles is based on Emerson saying so, as far as I can tell.

You seem to feel strongly that Mr. Pistorious should be able to use his prosthetic legs, because without them he cannot run fast enough to compete at the level he wants to compete at. Is this misstating your position?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:20 PM
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BitchPhd: I thought it was to see who could run the distance fastest.

Yeah, you know, I wasn't actually joking in my first comment on this thread: people don't like the idea of a double-amputee competing against able-bodied people and winning. The arguments against "allowing" him to compete don't make sense because they don't touch the real reason: it's disturbing and uncomfortable to think of a cripple as an Olympic athlete, so it's not going to happen.

And the reason I recognize this is because this is exactly the same kind of argument you find when discussing whether women should be "allowed" to compete in the same events as men. Contrary to what someone said upthread, objections arose not because women weren't able to compete with men, but because - given a sliding scale of ability and dedication - there were enough occasions when women won and men lost that this made people uncomfortable and the sports were divided.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:33 PM
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And the reason I recognize this is because this is exactly the same kind of argument you find when discussing whether women should be "allowed" to compete in the same events as men. Contrary to what someone said upthread, objections arose not because women weren't able to compete with men, but because - given a sliding scale of ability and dedication - there were enough occasions when women won and men lost that this made people uncomfortable and the sports were divided.

When and where? I find this hard to believe (to put it mildly), but am willing to stand corrected. And I say this as someone who was a mediocre to middling NCAA Division III athlete but would hold a couple world records if I did the same times as a woman.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:38 PM
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579: I feel strongly that the idea that his prosthetics are essentially part of his body, rather than the supplementary prosthetics that able-bodied people would use, is a concept that you guys don't seem willing to entertain for a moment.

That said, yes, you are misstating my position. I don't think he should be able to use prosthetics in order to *compete at the level he wants to compete at.* I don't think it's an issue of choice on his part, as that statement implies, at all. I think there *is an argument to be made* that prosthetics for people without legs are not in the same class as supplementary technologies for able-bodied people. John, at least, actually agreed when he said that if a person with prosthetics is using them to climb the stairs at home, they are his legs.

In any case. I really don't care any more.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:42 PM
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Dick Kerr's Ladies were formed as a result of a bet between the men's works team at Dick Kerr's factory and the women.

The men had just got beaten rather comprehensively in the men's league, and the women said that they could beat the men.

They did, and went on to have a successful-ish career as a sort of touring/exhibition side until the FA put a stop to it, for pretty blatantly sexist reasons.

I'm not sure Jes is right in a broader sense though.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:44 PM
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If the goal was to see who could run the distance the fastest, steroid use would be encouraged, the track would be replaced with a huge trampoline, and people would wear those damn aerobic stilts linked repeatedly above. But they don't.

Obviously that's an oversimplification. I was trying to point out that there have been several definitions of "sport" offered here, and that while they all seem to me to be accurate in that they're articulating people's intuitive sense of why it doesn't seem fair (say) for athletes to use drugs, etc., they also strike me as post-hoc rationalizations, to be honest.

Doubtless this is because I'm intrinsically hostile to all sporting events.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:47 PM
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B, what's your proposed rule change:
a: everyone can use springs in running OR
b: only the "disabled" get to use springs


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:57 PM
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That said, yes, you are misstating my position. I don't think he should be able to use prosthetics in order to *compete at the level he wants to compete at.* I don't think it's an issue of choice on his part, as that statement implies, at all. I think there *is an argument to be made* that prosthetics for people without legs are not in the same class as supplementary technologies for able-bodied people. John, at least, actually agreed when he said that if a person with prosthetics is using them to climb the stairs at home, they are his legs.

These are not the prosthetics he uses to climb the stairs at home. With those prosthetics, which are based much more closely on the way the human foot works, he can't run fast enough to be competitive. If it wasn't about him being able to compete at the level he wants to compete at, he could use bio-realistic prosthetics.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:57 PM
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moccasion don't try and make B learn about the technology she's arguing over, here. That's clearly beside the point.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-14-08 11:59 PM
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I feel strongly that the idea that his prosthetics are essentially part of his body, rather than the supplementary prosthetics that able-bodied people would use, is a concept that you guys don't seem willing to entertain for a moment.

I don't see many people who aren't willing to entertain this concept. After entertaining it, we realize that when people have the opportunity to radically alter the way their body works, in order to maintain something that resembles a sport, you need to establish boundaries. Withdrawing and refrigerating a bunch of your red blood cells so you can move that much more oxygen to your muscles? Not OK. Using prosthetics that work in a radically different and more efficient manner than the human leg? Also not OK.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:03 AM
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B, he doesn't walk around on Cheetah prosthetics at home or in the streets. They're too bouncy, not capable of easy stopping like one would want when walking, and less easy to turn in. Also, they're really expensive. They are not his "legs", they're his "competition legs". So even that argument that these prosthetics are his only everyday form of locomotion doesn't work.

Jesurgislac, 580 is just really unpleasant and unhelpful. Why accuse everyone of fear and bigotry when we're providing reasons why we believe the decision was sound?


Here's the crux of my reasoning, rehashing 500+ comments:

Take a look at the Cheetah prosthetic again. It would be very possible to put a foot-support system inside the bend of the prosthesis with most of the load-bearing attachment just under the knee, so that a typical Olympic sprinter could use the spring-like prosthetic limb in an identical way to Pistorius. Those sprinters would even be carrying additional weight in their shins and legs.

Seeing as how the goal of sports is to test athletic ability given preconditions as similar as possible, how could a ruling body that allows Pistorius to use his Cheetah prosthetics deny able-bodied athletes the right to use the identical-function prosthetics I postulated above? And if such equipment was allowed, how could the sport not be fundamentally changed?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:04 AM
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moccasion don't try and make B learn about the technology she's arguing over, here. That's clearly beside the point.

Bah. I know, yet I can't tear myself away.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:05 AM
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The outcome you are advocating isn't fair, and people would not accept it as such. The issue of whether the prosthetics are "part of his body" is a red herring; the prosthetics are a product of technological achievement, not athleticism. Sports fans might accept a regime where everyone can get technological enhancements, but they won't accept one where only certain people can.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:05 AM
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I have this hope that Ogged hasn't really gone on hiatus, but rather has just withdrawn briefly to call in an air strike on this thread.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:10 AM
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The other problem with only certain people getting to use springs is deciding just how disabled you have to be. Can midgets use springs? What about 5 foot tall man? Someone whose legs can't straighten? Someone who lost a toe? Someone with chronic shin splints?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:14 AM
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Bitchphd, I actually don't think that the question of whether his prosthetics are part of his body or not is essential in shaping my view. I'm gonna have to make an analogy, though.

Different species of primates have different ratios of upper arm length to lower arm length - it's set early on in fetal development, and it doesn't vary a whole lot within each species. Gorillas and some other primates don't have better muscles or bones than we do, but they have significantly greater effective strength than we do thanks to different arm ratios. They get better leverage. Most of us would frown on a weight lifter who used a lever to pry up large weights, but suppose that a person were born (through comic book physics and biology, presumably) completely naturally with a gorilla's arm ratio. That person would be a significantly better lifter and carrier of heavy loads than any other human being, including ones much larger and with much more muscle. There is some threshold beyond which I'd be entirely comfortable saying that that person should be disqualified from weight lifting competitions that don't allow other participants other kinds of compensatory boost.

That's the position Pistorius is in, or that someone like him will be soon. This isn't like (for instance) the training bit in Chariots of Fire, showing the historical drive by some sprinters to shorten their stride a bit so as to get an advantage at some distances. Pistorius' legs work really differently than any other sprinter's. It's a difference actually quite a bit greater than the hypothetically gorilla-armed weight lifter. A person whose ankles and lower legs naturally curved that way, whose calves stored so much additional energy, and so on, would face a lot of scrutiny, and would very likely be ruled out even if those features were all perfectly natural. At a minimum there'd be substantial argument over it, and it would get into the question of how encompassing standards are supposed to be and all the rest.

The underlying message from most defenders of his disqualification is, I truly believe, not "Gimps go home." (If anyone wants to argue my qualifications to notice such things, drop me a note on the side and I will be willing to discuss the nature of my own disabilities and experience with discrimination at some length. It is a depressing tale and one that's hard to summarize in some ways, and I'm not trying to play a victim card so much as to note that, yeah, I know about discrimination of many kinds in practice.) It's "This is something we never expected, and seems outside the range we ever imagined." Which is true. And the long-term cure will be multiple venues, not insisting that any particular venue work a particular way, I think.

(As a random aside, I also think that someone who naturally had legs that worked like Pistorius' would be welcome in some sports and rejected from others, because these things vary. Running has been very purist for a long time; others not so much so.)


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:14 AM
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Do any of you know why he doesn't run longer distances? It seems that the 25% boost in energy efficiency would help more at longer distances. Plus it'd negate his disadvantage starting.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:28 AM
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The real truth is of course that Pistorius' treatment team are World of Warcraft fans.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:29 AM
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595: The NYT diagram mentions that his rig takes more hip energy, and I bet that adds up. Also, he just may not have the lungs or other endurance-enhancing features for it. Guesswork, admittedly.

Now to go doze some.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:30 AM
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It strikes me as notable that, after starting running, he was sprinting on a level with world-class able bodied after 9 months. 9 months? Is the guy freakishly good at training, or does he have an advantage?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:31 AM
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Because if he turned up at the marathon with legs that don't tire out like everyone else's he'd Just Get Laughed At, is my cynical opinion. Even if he only got an extra 10 percent more efficient than anyone else's legs, that'd mean he has an effective five K head start, and then it's just ludicrous. No one would take you seriously, and no-one would race against you.

Not cynically, he's probably too heavy to go longer than the 1500, and even that'd be pushing it, I think, but I'm not sure how stringent morphic limits on track and field are. If it's like cycling, then he's probably working at this level because he's too heavy for anything further, like a young (pre-cancer) Lance Armstrong.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:37 AM
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600!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:38 AM
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Dear Santa, I need a copy editor. Could I get one as a late Christmas present?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:39 AM
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600: 600!

One of my high school buddies had one of those. It was a great car, not least because it didn't take very many people to be able to pick the thing up you and put it somewhere it wasn't supposed to be.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:57 AM
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592 is spoken like someone who isn't procrastinating from real work he needs to be doing. I have something I simply have to finish tonight, so I'm prepared to argue with anyone on anything into the wee hours of the night. (I would predict that right now B is "working on" her CV.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:59 AM
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Up you!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:00 AM
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I had a high school teacher who had the exact same kind of car. This led to the predictable high school student behavior.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:02 AM
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Sorry, Sifu, I don't speak Haskell.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:06 AM
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Walt: sports are the expression of aesthetic sensibilities in the hearts of those who otherwise have no let out for their love of beauty and elegance.

This explains why they are so vehemently argued about -- compare Suprematists/Constructivists, Impressionist/Academicians, Modernists/Everyone Else.

Now, do you want for, or against?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:08 AM
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592 is spoken like someone who isn't procrastinating from real work he needs to be doing

Actually, I'm supposed to be writing a concert review at this very moment. I wouldn't have commented, otherwise.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:09 AM
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I'll take against. Sports is a carefully constructed counternarrative to politics, where conflict can be discharged without disturbing the status quo. The essence of sports is not aesthetics, but symbolic violence.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:14 AM
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Y'all should read you some Eco. Haters.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:15 AM
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I lack the level of commitment to a world-view necessary to achieve hatred.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:18 AM
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Eco is a hater, Walt. I was trying to help.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:21 AM
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Intriguing. What by Eco?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:23 AM
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611 is beautiful.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:24 AM
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613: "Sports Chatter" and "The World Cup In Its Pomps" in Travels in Hyperreality.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:28 AM
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Thus, no doubt, explaining the appeal of boxing, sprinting, etc as `platonic' sports? They might not be pretty but they sure are vicious?

(I'm sure we can work in repressed homoeroticism as well, if we really try.)

(Firefox doesn't like homoeroticism, only homo eroticism. How odd.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 1:36 AM
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"Firefox doesn't like homoeroticism, only homo eroticism. How odd."

It's separo-normative.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 2:20 AM
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It's always seemed likely to me that Lance Armstrong's chemotherapy treatment gave him superhuman powers of endurance.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 5:08 AM
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618: That, and the EPO.


Posted by: johnston | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:04 AM
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It's Not About the EPO just doesnt sound good.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:09 AM
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I really, really wish that this thread would die, and I wish it had never been born. If B were being malicious I'd have more respect for her position -- I myself troll a lot.

I've said everything I could possibly say, and even felt that the argument helped me make my position much clearer, and she's impervious. I feel more Republican at the moment than I have at any time since 1963. It's like liberalism is occupied by insane, single-issue people who refuse to listen. She'd demand that the New York Philharmonic add an electric quitar section if she felt like it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:14 AM
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I've stayed out of this discussion because it is my area of academic research. And arguing with impervious people about something I know really a fuck of a lot about is a recipe for madness.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:16 AM
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What is your area of research, ttaM? Sports medicine?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:21 AM
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re: 623

Philosophical definitions of normality in the context of medicine and biology. So I've worked a fair bit on a lot of the foundational philosophical stuff that'd feed into discussions of bodily function, ability versus disability, taxonomies of body parts, etc.

Doesn't make me any kind of expert on sport qua sport, of course, but I would have a fair amount of philosophical apparatus to bring to bear on the problem. However, I'd mostly be rehashing obvious arguments made several times above, just employing a superficially more erudite sounding vocabulary. It wouldn't serve any purpose!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:29 AM
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This may be a whole different question, but "normality" seems to equivocate (not in a good way) between a statistical and a "normative" definition. Using normalizing logic, it's hard to call the middle of the Bell curve abnormal, even if the median is obesity or bigotry or laziness.

On the other hand, on some Bell curves we don't apply normalizing logic at all, and most is best.

And finally, there are some neutral Bell curves where the whole range is OK, though at the same time normalizers might sometime try to impose mormalizing on some of them. A lot of advertising seems to try to stigmatise previously-unmarked traits or behaviors.



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:44 AM
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It wouldn't serve any purpose

Since when has that been a requirement to post a comment on unfogged?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:46 AM
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I think that the sanity-destroying effects of the argument were primary for Matt.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:48 AM
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re: 625

Yes, both positions [statistical and 'normative'] are common in the philosophical literature on disease, for example.

627 is right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:55 AM
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This thread reminds me of listening to my 95 year old Italian grandmother proclaim OJ was framed. Just don't take it too seriously, and it's kind of amusing.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 8:06 AM
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It seems to me, though, that in a lot of cases the confusion between the two kinds of normality has perverse effects. For example, a mistaken decision to try to impose normality instead of accepting the whole range of traits, or (the opposite) the refusal to grant that one extreme is superior to the norm. A tacit normative judgment can be smuggle in by expressing it in quasi-scientific, quasi objective, statistical form. This can have either the effect of refusing to recognize excellence, or the contrary effect of unnecessarily stigmatizing something as "abnormal". The tendency is to favor the middle over the tails, but especially to establish the power of the expert who does the numbers.

I'm thinking more of behavioral normalization than of health normalization, but health talk creeps into discussions of behavior all the time.

This stuff is old hat for Foucauldians, I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 8:16 AM
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I would have a fair amount of philosophical apparatus to bring to bear on the problem.

Using a philosophical apparatus gives you an unfair advantage over people who are debating naturally.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 8:20 AM
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I promised B an answer last night, and I think the seeds of everything I'm saying here have been said several times. That said, I'm still finishing my coffee, so why not?

First, we have to think about what makes something a game or a sport. I'd put it roughly as reaching a goal while constrained by rules that limit the ways in which you are allowed to reach that goal. So even something as simple as running is not just 'get to 100m' as fast as possible it's 'get to 100m as fast as possible within this set of rules and limitations.' Another thing relevant is that usually the goal is only valuable insofar the rules of the game have made it so. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about being able to jump while sliding on ice, rotate three times in the air, and land on one foot, absent the rules of skating. This has been Emerson's point: to understand this controversy, you need to start by understanding what makes a sport tick. The rules are important because that's what makes it a sport: if it was just about getting to 100m as fast as possible, we'd use engines. This is one reason people get upset about cheating; the goal isn't valuable unless done in this challenging way.

A sport can set any number of things as its goal, but as heebie notes way back at 124, to be playing the same game, we not only have to have the same goal, but we have to have the same way, according to the rules, of getting there. If you and I were to play chess, I would be doing something wrong if I decided that I could make my knights move diagonally because that made it easier to checkmate you, even if doing so were more creative.

The rules can be arise from any number of motivations. We might ban steroids out of some idea that we're measuring natural talent, but most rules changes are about making the game more competitive or more fun or for the safety of competitors or more TV revenue. So we might limit the number of timeouts a NFL team can call, or the length a swimmer can spend underwater, or the type of shoes a runner can use, or make it a rule that sabre fencers cannot cross their trailing foot in front of their leading foot. We might say that men compete against men and women compete against women.

Note a couple of things here. I have not said 'Eidos of Running.' This has nothing to do with believing God set down the rules, so let's torch that strawman early. The other thing to note is since the rules are what makes up the game, there's no room for an exception for a single exception. The rule change has to apply to everyone. So 'but it's just one man' is not a good reason to allow an exception. Whatever we're talking about with Pistorius would have to be a global change. Several people have said this upthread.

So here we have Pistorius, and becaues of all these considerations, it's not just enough to ask whether he's running (looks like it), because we're not talking about approximating the Form of Running. We have to ask a) whether what he's doing is commensurable with what the other runners are doing and b) whether the rules should be changed to permit what he is doing.

I've argued by looking at the way his Cheetahs work that what he is doing isn't comparable to running with two legs. Sifu and others have noted this, too. It's not that it's not athletic, it's that it just that his legs work so differently that it's hard to say how we could be comparing the same thing. "But it's his legs" isn't really the issue. They provide the same functional equivalent as sprinting, but they don't work the same way. The sport has to measure the same thing, and there's good evidence that what he's doing isn't the same thing.

But, we say, the rules of racing aren't set down by God. Why not change the rules in order to allow it? We could! But it's important to recognize that because the Cheetah are so different, this does fundamentally change what the sport is, and it brings in a whole host of other issues: questions about the technology, questions about who is eligible to use it, whether the sport makes a good game if half of the competitors are on springs. I suspect that given the current state of technology, it wouldn't make a good sport to have springs racing calf muscles because we can't design the rules to make an interesting competition. In ten years, this might change. And racing in the Olympics is not, as apo says, a fundamental human right, so there's no need to err on the side of inclusivity. It's a game. It's already exclusive. It excludes everyone who isn't abled enough, and as destroyer noted, usually for something to count as discriminatory, we need something stronger than that.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 8:21 AM
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632-b is incorrect; the question is whether the rules should be changed to disallow what Pistorius is doing. There never was a rule before that disallowed a double-amputee showing up for a track meet and running on his prosthetics just as the other runners run on their two feet. If a rule is necessary to disallow Pistorius competing because if he's allowed to compete he might do better than runners who aren't double-amputees, then be honest at least about what's being done.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 9:12 AM
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634

These are not the prosthetics he uses to climb the stairs at home.

Right, but the other runners aren't running in house slippers, either.

That said, I get what Cala's saying, and as I said way upthread, I think Destroyer's point was, for my purposes, satisfactory. I still think there are a lot of holes in various aspects of the argument, but I am not even going to say what they are in the interests of Comity! (TM)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 9:15 AM
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635

New equipment has to be approved, Jesurgislac; this goes for shoes & clothing as well as prosthetics. You're correct to the extent that this is the first time prosthetics are advanced enough that the Olympic committee has needed to bother to make a decision (they don't govern high school level competitions) about whether the prosthetics are allowed, but describing it as a rule explicitly disallowing Pistorius because he's too fast is just inaccurate.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 9:17 AM
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634: This is Destroyer's 521 comment? I missed it (can't think how, in a thread only 600+ comments long) and agree it's valid.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 9:21 AM
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621: She'd demand that the New York Philharmonic add an electric quitar section if she felt like it.

When they add little fart-powered pistons to those Cheetahs she'll understand.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 9:35 AM
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Cala, after reading your 632, I must admit that you are now my second Official Blog Crush (Labs is my first). BUT! You are my first Same-Gender Official Blog Crush.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 9:42 AM
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639

I adore comment 2.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 10:22 AM
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640

Someone took comment 2 as a challenge.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 10:26 AM
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641

Dude. Kudos to Cala, Destroyer, watermoccasin, Bitch, and Jes, for actually arriving at comity. Wow.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 10:38 AM
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We're at Comity? *looks around* Nice place. Can you get a decent cup of tea here?

2 was right, anyway. It just took us 639 comments before we figured out that 2 was right.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 10:45 AM
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643

Sadly, not so much 'tea'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 10:55 AM
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644

No justice, no comity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 11:01 AM
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645

Cala and B are _both_ wrong for reasons I'm not prepared to discuss at this time.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:06 PM
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646

Largely because they are too lengthy to fit in this blog comment box.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 12:08 PM
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647

In total agreement here.

I wish it were possible for Oscar Pistorius to participate with ohers in these competitions, but he has an unfair advantage.
His "mechanics" aren't the same as those of a human who has his natural legs.
They grant him a great advantage in terms of energy economy and return of energy - following push-off - and less vertical motion.

It would be unfair to allow him and others like that in competitions. He may presently not beat other runners because he's - likely - not their athletic equal, but the minute you have top of the shelf elite 400, 800 + meters runners with this prosthesis on, they're going to beat the crap out of others.

If his limbs reproduced exactly or just about human movement and mechanics and didn't grant him other advantages, then he might be allowed.


Posted by: OFan | Link to this comment | 01-15-08 7:15 PM
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648

Thanks for outlining again the emotional motivation for banning Pistorius: people don't like the idea of a cripple beating able-bodied athletes.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 1:44 AM
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649

648. Where do you get that from? Speaking as a cripple who couldn't be less care less about athletics from any angle unless I stopped breathing, I'm not seeing any emotional motivation in this thread on the pro-banning side. The arguments summarised above by Cala are intellectually compelling, though.

Actually, the rules are changed to disallow competitors with artificial advantages pretty regularly - every time a new performance enhancing drug is identified and banned.

If Cheetahs were admitted, could able bodied athletes use them? If not, why not? How disabled would you need to be to qualify for using them? Who would decide if you were? etc. ad naus.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 5:57 AM
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If Cheetahs were admitted, could able bodied athletes use them?

Only if they had both legs amputated. Which I would hate to see happen, of course. But certainly: if someone wants to make use of prosthetics designed for athletes with no feet, anyone with no feet should be able to make use of them.

Seriously: I'm taking the point that was made way upthread that it's about trying to not let gadgetry become the purpose of the sport. I don't think that should mean eliminating a double-amputee who wants to run, but I see that argument.

What I'm not finding acceptable is arguments that are bouncing off the base "OMG if you let the cripple run he might win" - or at least do unacceptably well against able-bodied athletes.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 8:07 AM
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The thing is, though "he might win [for reasons unrelated to the reasons an ablebodied athlete would win]" is the same thing as not letting "gadgetry become the purpose of the sport".

If we had a prosthesis that was a perfect, or at least pretty close, functional imitation of a bio-leg, then a worldclass runner whose legs had been amputated "might win", and keeping them out of a race on that basis would be shitty for exactly the reasons you identify. This guy, on the other hand, "might win" something because his latest generation of gadgets got to the point where he's approaching world-class competitiveness; with the next generation of gadgets it seems likely that he'd be past "might win" into "will win" any footrace with an athlete with biological legs. His level of competitiveness appears to be much less a function of his athletic capacity, and more of the quality of his prostheses.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 8:25 AM
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652

I don't think anyone else in the thread was seriously saying what 647 is saying, Jesus Urge Islacstar.

651 gets it right.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 8:29 AM
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As long as we're going to pound this to death, I'll add that nobody is suggesting that Pistorius shouldn't be able to compete with runners who are similarly equipped. If that sport hasn't been invented yet, it's probably only a matter of time.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 8:46 AM
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He does compete with other athletes who are similarly equipped. He's the double-amputee world record holder in 100, 200, and 400m events. There's also this, from the Onion.


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 8:58 AM
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My superkoranic prosthetics will FINISH YOU ALL!!!


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 9:00 AM
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656

Exactly. This in danger of becoming like a debate about whether Sugar Ray Robinson would have beaten Joe Louis. There's a damn good reason why they never fought - they weren't commensurate.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 9:04 AM
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650: Somewhat belatedly, I did come up with a past sports situation that I think does contain some elements that show the "able-bodied" (or in this case the "right-sized") being concerned about losing to someone "abnormal". (I don't think it applies well specifically to this case, but it does show the general principle in action.)

The situation was the reaction to the use of a midget named Eddie Gaedel in a baseball game in 1951 by St Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck. Veeck, always the showman, did treat it as a gimmick, but everything about the appearance was legitimate and by the rules (he walked). The reaction was swift.

American League president Will Harridge, saying Veeck was making a mockery of the game, voided Gaedel's contract the next day.

Initially, major league baseball struck Gaedel from its record book, as if he had not been in the game.

This reaction stands in contrast to the relative acceptance* of Oakland's use of sprinter Herb Washington as a baserunning specialist during the '70s (he was in 105 ballgames, but never batted or fielded). So it was OK to use great speed in a specialized role, but not diminutive stature.

*Of course the George Willesque "purity of baseball" a-holes didn't like this one either.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-08 9:36 AM
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Whereas:

World sprint champion Tyson Gay said on Thursday he would have no problem racing South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius, who has been barred from the Beijing Olympics and other international races by the sport's world governing body.
"If they (Pistorius and other other paralympic athletes) want to go out there and compete just like we do and put their heart in to it, I see no problem with it whatsoever," Gay said during a teleconference announcing his selection as U.S. Olympic Committee sportsman of the year.
"It would be great," Gay, the world 100 and 200 metres champion, said . "I think he would be motivating a lot of other people."
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled on Monday that Pistorius, who runs with carbon fibre blades attached to his legs, should not be allowed to compete internationally against able-bodied runners. (cite)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-18-08 4:59 AM
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