Oscar Pistorious was a controversial figure long before the tragic and mysterious events that resulted in the death of his girlfriend. While many found it inspiring that a double amputee could compete at such a high level, others saw it as problematic.
Should he be allowed to race able-bodied athletes? Or would carbon fibre legs actually give him an advantage over them in terms of speed and energy consumption? At the same time though, can you really class someone as disabled when they are actually able to perform better than regular athletes?
This kind of enhancement throws up all kinds of questions that make us look more closely at the blurry line that has to be drawn between gear and enhancements. What makes caffeine okay, super lightweight shoes okay, but steroids illegal?
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If you thought these questions were complicated though, then just wait until we start seeing some of the more advanced technologies in human enhancement find their way into sports.
• What is Transhumanism?
While Oscar Pistorious’ blades were designed to help give him back his mobility, there are those who argue that technology can and should be used to enhance those of us who don’t have any mobility issues in the first place. These people are called ‘transhumanists’ and the movement aims to make technologies available to help us become ‘better than well’. Through augmentation and genetic enhancement, this movement advocates the use of technology with the purpose of making us stronger, faster and even smarter.
If it sounds like science fiction, then bear in mind that the case of Oscar Pistorious is historical – not speculation. What’s more, studies are being carried out all the time that suggest we may one day be able to grant ourselves almost ‘super human’ powers through a single injection. In studies with ‘insertional gene doping’, new genetic material is injected straight into the nucleus of the cells where it begins to copy itself and rewrite our ‘source code’. In one study on mice, scientists were able to use this process to knock out the ‘myostatin’ gene, thus preventing the production of a chemical that usually inhibits muscle growth. Once this procedure was carried out, the researchers were able to see incredibly muscle development in mice with no side effects. The process would be untraceable and permanent and could turn anyone into a shoe-in for the next Mr Olympia competition. This is just one of many such techniques, and general consensus is that we’ll start seeing the processes on the black market any day now.
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• The Implications
So what are the implications of such technologies? Well of course it presents a problem for sports as current methods for identifying doping would be rendered ineffective. But more to the point it raises some important issues about what it means to be human and the nature of competition. If someone has changed their DNA, then surely they are just competing as themselves? And if we were to prevent the use of transhuman technologies, wouldn’t we be curious as to what we could have achieved?
Image source: wallpapertube.com
Could we some-day see a world where there are special Olympics, ‘regular’ Olympics and super Olympics? Do share your views in the comment section, we’ll be glad to hear from you.
Authored by Joshua Bing – Edited by Nizam Khan
Joshua Bing is a hockey player and he works for a renowned store offering clients hockey equipment. When he is not busy helping clients choose the best inline gear, he likes to indulge in blogging and reading.
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