Should athletes be allowed to compete with prosthetic limbs and other humanoid technologies
Table of Contents
Competitive sports have become one of the tests for human strength, skill, speed, agility, and physical prowess. Olympic Games and other national and international competitive sports activities have become standards by which men and women have come to measure their physical abilities. While the normal human body which is fit and is well-conditioned is capable of accomplishing feats of strength and endurance, it is also prone to injury. Injuries have led to various consequences which have affected the general performance of daily activities, including sports activities. Some of these injuries have led to amputations which have then caused the installation and use of prosthetic and humanoid technologies. With improved features of these technologies, amputees have been known to compete in sports activities. However, based on these improved features, non-amputee athletes feel that athletes using prosthetic limbs and other humanoid technologies possess an unfair advantage over them during sports competitions. On the other hand, others argue that the unfair advantage does not exist. This essay explores the thesis statement: Athletes who are using prosthetic limbs and other humanoid technologies should have a chance to compete using their artificial limbs because the handicapped athletes have also earned that right through hard work, not because of an unfair advantage.
The actual number of amputee athletes using mechanical limbs is not fully known, but there are about 10 who have gained worldwide attention, including Hugh Herr (rock climbing), Oscar Pistorius (track and athletics), Jessica Long (swimming), Aimee Mullins (track and athletics, and other similarly-situated athletes (Wallechinsky and Louky, 2012). Most times, these athletes have not competed in the main Olympic events, except for Oscar Pistorius, Paolo Fantato (archery), and a few other athletes (Wallechinsky and Louky, 2012). The call for more amputees using mechanical limbs to be included in mainstream competitions has become louder over the years. The following reasons for this demand are detailed below.
Firstly, amputee athletes using prosthetics and other humanoid technologies should be given a chance to join compete in mainstream sports events because they do not carry an unfair advantage over their normal-limbed competitors (Wolchover, 2011). These amputee athletes also work as hard as the other normal-limbed athletes. They train as hard as other athletes; and sometimes they are driven to even work harder than other athletes because of their handicap (Turbow, 2012). Claims from a 2007 study by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) indicated that Oscar Pistorius’s limbs gave him an unfair advantage in the track as the blades gave him more spring on his steps, allowing him to push out from the ground more efficiently than other normal-limbed runners (Turbow, 2012). However, this finding was later discredited by studies conducted by Hugh Herr, also an athlete-amputee. Herr and his team conducted energetic tests to measure Pistorius’s oxygen consumption, fatigue levels, the force he employs when running, the length of his steps, and the frequency of his strides (Wolchover, 2011). They concluded that in these parameters, Pistorius performed in a similar vein with his other competitors. Herr further noted that Pistorius’s fatigue levels followed the same curve as other athletes (Wolchover, 2011). This meant that he also felt the same level of exhaustion and fatigue as the other athletes. The fatigue may not have been measured on his calves, as seen in other athletes, but the rest of his body also experienced the same fatigue as other athletes (Wolchover, 2011).
These athletes undergo the same level of training in order to gain the right to compete in sports. They could have chosen the easy way out and not pursued sports activities, but through their hard work and perseverance, they have chosen to immerse themselves in a field where they know they are at a physical disadvantage (Wolchover, 2012). If these athletes did not dedicate much time and much effort towards their sport, they would not have reached the physical level of competitive athletes (Wolchover, 2012). It is therefore not fair to deny them the chance to compete in sports when they have done the hard work exerted by other normal-limbed athletes.
Another reason why amputees with prosthetic or humanoid limbs should be given a chance to compete in sports is the fact that it is their basic human right (Burkett, McNamee & Potthast, 2011). The International Human Rights Council recognizes the equal right of all people to explore activities regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, economic situation, and in this case physical condition. Regardless of the results of the studies on Pistorius and his athletic abilities, there still may be those who would object to him competing with other normal-limbed and able-bodied competitors (Burkett, McNamee & Potthast, 2011). Policies and laws are laid out to ensure that individuals with different thoughts and physical qualities would have actual access to different activities in society, including sports activities (Wolchover, 2011). The perception then is of a world where one may be born without fibulas, and then also be a great athlete. People must have the chance to explore that and to reach such a goal. Fairness has to be ensured in sports and in order to ensure such fairness, more technologies must be invented and used (Wolchover, 2011). Developments in science and technology gave Oscar Pistorius and other similarly-placed future athletes the chance to compete in the Olympics, while still ensuring fair treatment in sports (Lippi & Mattiuzzi, 2008).
Herr argues that there may in the future be artificial limbs that would be able to actually exceed the capabilities of the normal limbs (Greenburg, 2009). Paralympic athletes may actually also be given a chance to run faster and jump even higher than their normal-limbed counterparts. If these Paralympic athletes would be able to qualify for the Olympics then they may be called on to use less advanced technology to ensure that they would be on the same level as their competitors (Greenburg, 2009). The point is that they are given the chance to compete with able-bodied athletes. Herr’s results indicate that Pistorius’s blades are an example of the less advanced technologies. These blades allow him to run at the same speed as he would have if he would have had normal limbs (Bragaru, Dekker, Geertzen & Dijkstra, 2011). He is given the same chance as any other athlete competing in the same area and level of expertise.
Lastly, amputees using artificial limbs must also be allowed to compete in mainstream sports activities because, in the end, it is a practice worth supporting (Arnovitz, 2015). It is a means by which amputees and other disabled individuals can compete and be on the same playing field as able-bodied athletes. It is a chance for these amputees to train their bodies to compete in sports (Arnovitz, 2015). It is a chance that should be given the same respect and time as the chance given to other able-bodied athletes. It would help encourage these amputees to compete competitively and to improve their physical abilities (Walpole, 2012). For individuals who may suffer disabilities, it would be inspiring to give these individuals a chance to play the same field as other individuals who may be more able-bodied.
In conclusion, athletes should be allowed to compete with prosthetic limbs and other humanoid technologies. Contrary to reports that these athletes possess an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes, these amputees with artificial limbs actually do not possess an unfair advantage. Actually measured studies on these athletes indicate that they exert the same effort in competing; and that they also feel the same level of fatigue as the able-bodied athletes. It is, therefore, wrong to deny them a chance to compete in sports because of claims that they have an unfair advantage over other normal athletes. Another reason is also based on the fact that these athletes have the same rights as other athletes to compete in sports. It is against human rights policies to deny them such rights. The playing field is level and as such, all parties must be treated fairly and given the same chance to compete. Finally, allowing these athletes to compete in sports is also very much important because it would actually give them a chance to train better as athletes. It would also give these disabled athletes a chance to compete in the same level playing field as their able-bodied counterparts.
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