Sunday, May 18, 2008

Competitive Advantages

While the word "Steroids" is in the title of the post, that is not the highlight of the topic. Recently, an Olympics Committee has ruled a double amputee can compete in a sprinting event, despite concerns his prosthetic legs give him a competitive advantage. There has been some research on the subject, and the only consensus seems to be that his carbon fiber ankles allow a type of more efficient bending than human ankles are capable of. 

What does this have to do with steroids? No, it did not turn out this South African sprinter took them. But the phrase "competitive advantage" has been mentioned in almost every article pertaining to this subject. The fact of the matter is, steroids, blood doping, and similar cheating tactics have our culture paranoid about "competitive advantages" being obtained. The chaos surrounding Tour De France blood doping, the Mitchell Report in baseball, and other massive cheating operations have the sports world on edge. Unfortunately, this awareness has spread to other, less applicable situations.

Since the consensus among the scientific community is so divergent, it is impossible to say with definitiveness whether a true advantage is gained. Just think about it: a man with no legs can run just as fast as men with legs. This is a feat of human perseverance and determination. This is a story worthy of publicity, instead of the constant scandals that have riddled the last nine pages of this blog. 

Sports is all about stories like this. The reason we watch sports is to see things no one thought possible. Who thought the Giants would actually upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl? Who thought the US Hockey team would actually beat the Soviets in 1980? Who thought Villanova even stood a chance against mighty Georgetown in the NCAA basketball finals in 1985? These games are why we watch sports. They inspire people like Oscar Pistorious to try to qualify for a sporting event no amputee has ever qualified for. And he is clean.

But what has steroids done to our sporting world? It has made us constantly question the integrity and the competitive balance of our events. I don't think Spygate would have been as publicized if it was not during the Steroids Era, or immediately after it. I think people are just incredibly sensitive to the notion that their precious sporting events have been tainted. In instances like Spygate and Steroids, someone cheated. In this case, the only person that was cheated was Oscar Pistorious for being born with fibulus and needing amputations when he was 11 months old. Let him compete, let him inspire others, and let this "competitive balance" debate be put to rest. After all, this is what sports is all about. 

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