It's Not About Inclusiveness

Tonight, my mom and I were watching the Olympics, and I was excited to see Oscar Pistorius competing. I'd read about him a few weeks ago and was hoping to catch one of his races. For those who don't know, Pistorius (South Africa) is the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympics (as compared to the Paralympics). He's an amazing athlete, and, as a person with a disability myself, I think it's particularly awesome to see him competing alongside able-bodied athletes. 

However, after the race finished, the commentator declared that Pistorius competing is "an example of just how inclusive this London Olympics is." Um, say what? What does that even mean? Olympic officials felt bad for Pistorius so they let him on the team in the name of being "inclusive?" 

No. That's not how the Olympics works.

The fastest, strongest, most precise athletes earn a spot on their respective countries' teams. Pistorius was there because he outran other men. No one gave him extra points because his legs have been amputated from the knees down. To suggest he's at the Olympics for any other reason than his athletic skill is condescending. 

I realize that there may be some who are confused about this, given that Pistorius uses prosthetic limbs. "He didn't get there all by himself," they say. "He has different legs." Those of us with disabilities may need accommodations in order to get to the same level playing field. I had extra time allowed on tests in grad school, and use of a computer.  Some people have wheelchairs, scribes, or text to speech applications. But those accommodations only help us if we also have the necessarily skills. All the extra time in the world wouldn't help me pass my courses if I hadn't studied and truly understood the material. The nicest prosthetics available don't allow someone to become an Olympic athlete. 

In fact, the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in the spring of 2008 that Pistorius's prosthetics do not give him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. A few months prior the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said that he was ineligible to compete in any IAAF competition with those prosthetics, but Pistorius appealed and the CAS sided with him.

So no, Pistorius competing isn't about the Olympic committee being "inclusive." He's just a man who is one of the best in his country, the same as all the other men and women competing.


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