A couple of days ago, I pointed out that the IAAF is trying to add a rule that specifically prohibits certain prosthetics. I was not really sure how I felt about the rule, but I have since made up my mind. In the comments, Ima disagreed with the rule and had this to say:

Let me get this straight, the persons commenting and you Blaine, seem to believe there is an advantage to being disabled or having mechanical limbs replacing original equipment?

Perhaps a mile in their shoes would help you to understand the discomfort they may be feeling on a day to day basis. Perhaps understanding that they will never again be considered whole in many peoples minds.

The last time I checked competition was designed to test yourself against others, regardless of their limitations.

I would suggest perhaps concerning yourselves with your own preparations and less about their “advantages”.

Next thing you know there will be restrictions for those who have had joint replacements! “No fair, he has a metal hip!”

Trying to decide on how I would respond to this comment has cemented in my mind that the specific devices named should in fact be banned.

Now, I fully recognize that being an amputee is not a disability that I would care for. A broken ankle and running injuries such as stress fractures and tendonitis don’t even come close to letting me see what it is like to be an amputee. I do know what it is like to be blind, and to not have the use of my eyes. In the end, though, walking a mile in their shoes is not really that important and has no bearing on the situation. When I have gone blind during a race, I should not have been allowed to cut the course; I just had to make do with what I had left to myself.

Anybody that reads this site on a regular basis knows my thoughts about performance enhancing drugs. If I argue against allowing somebody who uses steroids being allowed to compete, then how I can argue for somebody wearing a prosthetic that gives them an advantage?

When I run a road race, I sometimes race against folks in wheelchairs and hand-cycles. Most wheelchair and hancycle athletes can beat me quite handily. Their race times are not mixed in with folks who run the race. If somebody incorporates prosthetics or even just shoes that have wheels or springs and that can allow them to traverse a given distance faster than they could without the device, how is that any different other than through a matter of degree?

What a disabled athlete feels on a day to day basis does not change what advantages or disadvantages that they might have on a specific day at a specific time in a specific competition. Competition is designed to test yourself against others regardless of limitations, but it is not designed to give some athletes an artificial advantage over others. Age group categories, weight class categories, and even equipment categories are designed to provide a level playing field.

Concerning myself with my own preparations is always my primary focus, but I fail to see anything wrong with discussing a proposed change in rules for international competition. This is a subject that people should feel divided over, and it is not something that can be easily decided. I am not one to bury my head in the sand and not pay attention to what is happening in my sport. I fully respect Ima’s opinion, and I can certainly see the validity of that opinion. However, at this point I think that I have to disagree.