Doc: Pistorius has unfair edge

2011-07-24 18:45

Johannesburg - South African sport scientist Ross Tucker says there is enough evidence to suggest double amputee Oscar Pistorius' carbon-fibre blades give him a "significant advantage" over able bodied athletes.

This comes after Pistorius qualified in the men's 400m sprint for next month's World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea at a track and field meeting in Italy on Tuesday.

"I think the current evidence already suggests that he has a significant advantage," Tucker said at the weekend.

"He keeps falling back on the CAS ruling, and telling people that the science has cleared him.

"That is completely untrue. What has happened is the lawyers were able to clear him because the Court of Arbitration (CAS) process was flawed in that it did not allow all the science to be presented."

Pistorius suffered a number of setbacks when he first attempted to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) initially banned him from competing in able bodied races after it was found that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.

He took his case to the CAS and was cleared to run shortly before the Beijing Games.

Tucker said Pistorius had been "door-to-door, looking for scientists to assist with his defence."

Tucker was approached by the Ministry of Sport to assist with scientific testing, but Tucker declined as he believed Pistorius had an advantage over able bodied competitors.

Pistorius assembled a panel of seven scientists and formed a case against the findings made by the IAAF, and was ultimately cleared.

The proof put forward by Pistorius' scientists, however, came into question when two of them, Peter Weyand and Matthew Bundle, published findings 18 months later, suggesting he enjoyed a 10-second advantage.

"That was not new research at all - it was the same research, but for some reason, they did not mention it, and the court did not ask for it," said Tucker.

"This is like someone going to court accused of committing a crime and the lawyers 'forgetting' to bring up the evidence of fingerprints or DNA.

"The fact is, there was scientific evidence that suggested Pistorius had a big advantage.

"It was not presented to the court, so the court made a decision based on incomplete evidence."

Tucker said Weyand and Bundle's research showed how Pistorius would run if the blades behaved as normal limbs.

The CAS process was also flawed, according to Tucker, as the three judges had no scientific knowledge and the evidence was not debated and discussed as he believed it should have been.

"In science, we have this peer-review process, where science is debated, and that was completely absent," he said.

"Scientific integrity got destroyed in that testing process."

Tucker made it clear that his claims against Pistorius were made purely on scientific basis.

"His advantage is large, and it's not a question of an advantage over other able bodied runners, but over what able bodied legs would produce," he said.

"In other words, what, theoretically is the advantage of carbon-fibre compared to human limbs? Do they perform better? The answer is yes, and that's why we must make a fuss."

Tucker said the scientific evidence should not be ignored due to fears of fringing on Pistorius' rights or the fact that he was a role model.

"He is all those things, make no mistake. He's inspirational and he should get enormous credit for that," Tucker said.

"The problem is thus a performance one, and I exist in the world of science where the evidence matters, not the emotion and opinion."

He said many scientists believed Pistorius held an advantage but they were too scared to speak out because it was a contentious issue.

"The only scientists who I have seen or heard actually say there is not an advantage are the ones who worked for Pistorius and who did the testing - Hugh Herr and his colleagues," Tucker said.

"I think for many, it's too controversial. People have very emotional reactions and, frankly, I think that scientists are nervous to express what they might really think."

Tucker said there was no need for further tests as enough evidence already existed.

He called for the process that delivered the verdict, which was based on "incomplete information", to be reviewed.

Changing prosthetic limbs, according to Tucker, had a large impact on performance, and he said companies which made the blades often gave amputee athletes prototypes to try out.

"This introduces the big issue - as soon as technology is a factor in performance, then improvements in performance are no longer predictable or natural," he said.

"It's more like engineering than human physiology, and that's a problem." Tucker offered a number of reasons to support his belief that Pistorius held an advantage.

He said the 24-year-old sprinter was able to move his legs 16% faster than the fastest 100m sprinters in history, due to the light weight of the artificial limbs.

As a result, Pistorius needed to produce less work to accelerate his limbs and was able to reposition them more rapidly, so he was able to move quicker across the ground.

Tucker said the sprinter's contact time with the ground could also be much longer, giving him more time to generate force.

The force Pistorius needed to produce was lower than able bodied athletes because carbon-fibre was more effective at giving energy back than muscles and tendons, and he could use 20% less force than able bodied athletes to run at the same speeds.

Tucker said Pistorius had less than half the muscle activity of able bodied runners, and used significantly less oxygen than other sprinters, giving him a "big physiological advantage".


  • BardofAvon - 2011-07-24 18:50

    Has the ring of truth.

  • SX137 - 2011-07-24 19:00

    The man is a DOUBLE amputee, it is just incredible to see him take on the worlds best able bodied athletes and not be beaten by a country mile. He won his court case so let it be Mr Tucker. This man is a national hero for living his dream and is a role model for all physically challenged people. I feel so moved when I see Pistorius competing. It would be a crime against humaity if he were barred from competing. Get a heart and shut up Mr Tucker

      Lucky Strike - 2011-07-24 19:35

      Please read what Tucker says. He also admires Pretorius but this is a case of bringing in technology and the fact is that a manufacturer can try all kinds of things to improve Pretorius' performances while a "normal" athlete only has his/her limbs they were born with and they aren't allowed to use technology - in the form of drugs, etc. - to enhance there performance. I believe that the manufacturer of the limbs could even develop a set of blades for the various items in which Pretorius participates. Tucker has a point.

      SX137 - 2011-07-24 20:44

      @Lucky Strike Having the limbs that you are born with is a whole heap better that having two steel blades. Has Tucker considered aspects like balance, physical discomfort, chaffing of the strappings of the blades to the stumps. But take heart Lucky Strike..Pistorius through his disability will only manage at best 5th so he is not really a threat to the top runners.

      Pork Knights - 2011-07-24 21:42

      @ SX127 I guess science wasn't your strong point at school

      Atoombom - 2011-07-25 01:30

      Has any of these sport scientists run with the blades to decide it has an unfair advantage? NO! They are just guessing. THe big thing is that if Pistorius ends up in the final and beat only 1 guy in the final, it will be a humiliation to the non-disabled world. The fact remains that he does NOT have the natural movement of a full, normal leg. Go Oscar! Show the world what WILL means

      Janneman - 2011-07-25 05:27

      Yes, cannot agree more. It's not like the carbon fiber feet have a booster energy source, the poor guy has to use various other muscles to balance on those pieces of reinforced plastic. If he somehow manage to use his prosthetic feet to run faster and more efficiently, it is his well deserved benefit. I think some "scientist" have absolutely no common sense.

      Dan - 2011-07-25 05:32

      SX137 you are a very stupid person. Seriously get an education please.

      Dan - 2011-07-25 05:35

      @ Atoombomb. You are so stupid and 100% wrong. Science is based on fact, what you are saying is based on emotion and assumption. Maybe a bit above your ability to understand.

      SX137 - 2011-07-25 06:31

      @Pork Knights Who gives a frig about science in a case like Pistorius. So he might have a slight advantage in one area (and there are a lot of probables in Mr Tuckers Statements), but the other disadvantages he has to deal with are massive. And for your edification, I got the Matric Science Prize and have a 4yr Engineering Degree

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:38

      I'd like to think that my heart is working ok, thanks. I find it frustrating that people cannot separate the issue that Pistrious is an inspiration and has achieved a lot from the question of a scientifically provable advantage. Both exist. I don't see that the one detracts from the other, but I don't believe it is correct to allow participation in able-bodied events as a result of the advantage. And scientifically, to those who are so quick to dismiss the possibility - you are allowing emotion to cloud reading of the evidence. All I ask is that you consider that evidence. What does it mean when energy use is 25% lower. What does it mean that horizontal braking forces are 50% lower, that he is able to move his limbs 16% faster than 100m sprinters like Usain Bolt? What does it mean that he requires 20% less force? Those are clear findings, provable, verifiable. And they have enormous implications for performance. But instead of insulting me directly, think about them. You may disagree, and ultimately conclude that he still should run because of his inspirational nature. That's fine, I'd be happy with that. But to attack purely on the basis of disagreement is not constructive at all. The real question is: What are we going to do, if, in four or five years' time, a double amputee from say West Africa comes along and runs 41 seconds? Two seconds better than the WR? Then it will be obvious, and very complex to sort out. It's Pandora's box and science suggests so Ross

      SX137 - 2011-07-25 20:41

      @Mr Tucker. I think that we should make an allowance for Pistorius and any other double amputee who competes in the future. If they set a world record then they deserve even more praise, but that is my personal and emotional opinion. Those of us who have run marathons alongside amputees running with prothesis, see first hand the incredible will, guts and determination displayed when they are suffering from the pain and discomfort of their amputation. When one witnesses that, the rational is quickly replaced by the emotional. I take it that you have published your research and findings in a medical journal and that it has been through the standard peer review process and that your peers are in agreement with your findings. All I ask is please don't destroy this wonderful athlete's dreams, the adversity he has had to overcome is too great. Leave him to be to concentrate on the hard graft of his training schedule. And lastly, of course you have a heart.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 22:57

      Thank you for the response. I appreciate your views, and the manner in which they're expressed. I think it's potentially dangerous to talk about making allowances simply because of extenuating circumstances. Reality is that if the evidence is correct (and it is overwhelming and very strong), then we will one day see a runner in carbon fibre blades who runs 41 seconds for 400m. What then? The introduction of technical gadgets and engineering into the sport presents a major problem - as soon as technology has the potential to improve performance more than training, it skews the order of competitive sport. It's Formula 1, where engineers are busily trying to figure out how to change equipment to find 0.5 seconds worth of speed. That's not athletics. But athletics is competitive, it's business and hard as it may seem, it must be treated as such, separate from the emotive argument. And yes, he has overcome adversity, but it's presumptuous to suggest that he be allowed to run only for that reason. There are many who overcome great adversity - they are impoverished, malnourished, have a family to feed etc.(think east African runners), and they get to the elite level. But we can't make allowances for every case like this. Oh, and yes, research has been published: This is one of the 3 papers. All show the advantage. And the physiological basis for the advantage is clear, the evidence merely confirms the hypotheses. Ross

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 23:05

      And I must add - the adversity is unquestionable, and that's why Pistorius IS a role model, and he IS an inspiration. But that, to me, is different to the question of whether he has advantages. The two are not mutually exclusive, and he should continue to be that inspiration. But should he be competing in international athletics in able-bodied competition? No, not according to the scientific evidence. The adversity makes him different,but still equal, maybe superior to others in some respects. But that difference should be celebrated,and the problem is that as soon as one embarks on this journey to compare, well, the science might start telling you things you don't want to know. That there is an advantage, for example. So my point is, let's celebrate the performances,the inspiration, but let's not make this comparison, because it's not favourable. And as I said, the Olympic Games,the sport of athletics,is full of people who overcome enormous adversity of different kinds. We cannot make allowances for anyone who "needs" to achieve elite sport just because they didn't have all the opportunities others had. I hate if that sounds callous, but it's how sport works. The extreme implication, if I might be so brazen as to use this analogy, is that a young man who really wants to pursue his dream as an athlete, but who cannot because his muscles are too weak, his heart is not large enough, is allowed to use doping to achieve that level. Make allowances for one, make them for all RT

      SX137 - 2011-07-26 20:39

      @ Ross. I have developed respect for your incredible calmness and diligence which has shone through all your reponses. I am now caught between my emotive empathy for Mr Pistorius and your logically reasoning. Good luck to both you and Pistorius

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-26 21:03

      Thank you very much, that is a very gracious compliment and I'm pleased to be able to leave this at that point. Make no mistake, this is such an emotional issue, and it has created a real firestorm - I've had more than my fair share of "hand grenades" lobbed my way in the last few days! But thank you for reading and for listening, that is all one can ever ask, and I realise that even with the evidence of an advantage, a decision on what to do with it is complex. And so even if we disagree, we can at least agree on a few things, provided it's done the way you have allowed it. Many others do not. So thank you for being gracious and open, and for the positive feedback. Best of luck Ross

  • VB - 2011-07-24 19:02

    Apart from being negative and controversial has Ross Tucker contributed anything positive or something that can be substantiated to sport in South Africa?

      Dan - 2011-07-25 05:36

      @ VB. Yes he did. He just pointed out a fraudster. Oscar running with blades is no different that athletes taking steriods.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:32

      Well, that's harsh. My answer to that is "ask around". I'd like to think I've done a great deal, for rugby, for kayaking, for triathlon, for rowing, for Olympic sport. But as I say, ask around. I'll give you some referrals if you'd like. Ross

      James - 2011-07-26 07:01

      @VB please go and educate yourself

  • Kevin - 2011-07-24 19:12

    Yeah right Ross - that's why the 400m is being overwhelmed with double-amputees at the moment; it is just so unfair. Lets not forget all of the disadvantages that go with not being able to bend knees, flex ankles etc. Try and put everything in balance - including all the human factors like having your legs held by customs or getting lost by baggage handlers.

      Dan - 2011-07-25 05:38

      @ Kevin. Not all amputees have a desire to be like the abled bodies athletes. But should he really make an impact, the number will grow in future.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:31

      To Kevin. The answer to this one is simpler than maybe people realize. I posted this below. Go take your Johannesburg phone book, and close your eyes, open the book on any page and then point your finger at a name. What are the chances that you'll pick a world class athlete? 1 in 100? 1 in a 1000? Turns out the probability is 1 in 500,000 to 1 million. That's how small the chances are of becoming an elite athlete. That's because it takes so many amazing factors to produce a world class performer. Genetics, good coaches, good facilities, supportive parents, a support group of peers, luck. Now, imagine I introduce to this argument another factor - the person who you pick must be a double amputee! The reality is that double amputees are incredibly rare. Then on top of this, they have get extensive physio and training, and also have a fair degree of wealth. There are a lot of double amputees in the world, but most of them are in war-torn areas. So when you play this probability scenario, then it becomes clear that the chances of a double amputee 'over-running" athletics is one in 100 million, maybe 1 in a billion. Does this make oscar Pistorius remarkable? Absolutely, nobody ever said differently. Does it mean he has no advantage? No, and that's a separate question, and the science suggests a big advantage. Ross

      Bigboet - 2011-07-25 10:09

      The fact is running on carbon fibre is that its so light and with the upper legs trained to handle them it will be like running on air and will go so much faster then normal legs, so i say he must stay with the paralympics, where it is more or less equal.

  • Gavin - 2011-07-24 19:19

    It's quite simple then - if able bodies athletes have a problem with him competing then there is nothing to stop them deliberately amputating their legs so that they can also have an "unfair" advantage. Really, let him be.

      Atoombom - 2011-07-25 01:31

      Hahahaha, thats absolutely true

  • InternetMan - 2011-07-24 19:20

    This man speaks the truth.

      Marcell - 2011-07-25 05:53

      He speaks his 'believe'. He should go and proof it. He is a scientist after all.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:30

      To Marcell: Well, actually, it has been proven in two separate scientific studies. That's what I was talking about in the article above - perhaps you skipped down to here after reading the headline. But here is the most recent research study: It finds a 16% faster repositioning of the limbs, and 20% less force needed to run at the same speeds. Added to this the previous study found a 25% lower energy and oxygen cost of sprinting. All in all, the scientist in me is satisfied. Ross

      Howzitekse - 2011-07-25 22:15

      So, scientifically speaking, what percentage should he be faster than Bolt?

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 23:10

      That argument is only true IF you believe he was equal to Usain Bolt to begin with. If you assume this, then he should be 15% faster. He's not, clearly, and that suggests that he's not the equal of Bolt (no shame in that). I mean, no amount of intervention, for example, is going to turn me, or you, or 99.99% of the world in Usain Bolt. Just the reality of the genetic component of performance. So it becomes a circular argument. If you believe there's no advantage, then the fact that he's not equal to Bolt neither confirms nor disproves the position. If you believe he does have an advantage, then the fact that's he not does nothing anyway. So it's actually a futile question. To give the arithmetic, he is currently 10% behind Bolt (± 1 second). Zero advantage means he is there already. A 15% advantage means he'd normally be 2.5 seconds behind Bolt. That means he runs 11.3 seconds. Not unreasonable. Point is, neither comparison helps. The only thing that matters is the evidence, and if that evidence says that prosthetic blades provide a large (15 to 25%) advantage with respects to limb acceleration, horizontal braking force, force application, and energy cost of running, then that's the debatable point. Ross

  • Anonymous Thinker - 2011-07-24 19:35

    If it's a problem with the blades then why not see how he does with "leg" prosthetics? Let him practice with those for a while then see what his times are...if it's not the blades then surely he'd do just as well.

  • Bart Zimzon - 2011-07-24 20:00

    solution: let able bodied athletes also use those blades. And after that roller skates or a bicycle, but wait, that is another sport. So the real solution is: create a new sport discipline--->blade running ! everybody happy.

  • Bernoo - 2011-07-24 20:47

    Simple test, If he jumps vertically, does he bounce? If so, then he does have an unfair advantage, if not then there is no advantage

      OZNOB - 2011-07-24 21:24

      well give oscar credit as he would appear to be on the bounce getting cleared to compete

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:27

      He does, yes, more than you or I would. Energy return from the carbon fibre is 80% (established by two separate studies, one of which was funded by Ossur, the blade manufacturer). During sprinting, tendons return 50 to 70% of the energy (depending on the level of fatigue), so the elastic energy return is higher.

  • Samurai Demo - 2011-07-24 21:05

    no man with no legs has any advantage over people with both working legs. fk that!

  • Wizard Entei - 2011-07-24 21:19

    Has this idiot ever tried running without knees, calves or feet? Leave the guy alone. He's achieved more in his life with this disability than most people without disabilities ever will!

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:26

      This "idiot" hasn't, no. And certainly, he has achieved a great deal, and should be applauded. But parallel to this, not in conflict with it, is the scientific evidence that he has a performance advantage compared to if the carbon fibre blades behaved like normal limbs. Now, I'm sorry that you cannot see that the debate about his inspirational qualities and achievements is a distinct issue from the question of advantage. But it is. Ross

  • Georgp2 - 2011-07-24 21:34

    Mr Tucker Amputate your head Maybe the you will think better

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:25

      Hi Georgp That's harsh, and not fair. Perhaps not even worth a response, but when you bring such hostility and emotion into the debate then how can anyone see progress? Very unbalanced. Ross

      James - 2011-07-26 07:10

      @George......if you had a head in the first place, you would have noted the two separate issues surrounding this case. Don't crucify the messenger before reading the message properly

  • BryanJhb - 2011-07-24 21:59

    And urs Mr Tucker is just another opinion. As other readers have requested, please explain why the 400m able bodied events are not overrun by disabled athlectes like Oscar? Until you can explain this your theory is flawed? Furthermore, have you taken into account the disadvantage that comes from the slower reaction time.

      bramkho - 2011-07-25 00:38

      Because double-ambutees having the support of a healthy family able to afford this kind of prothesis are very few. Oscar still a very good athlete.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:24

      This is a relatively simple answer, Bryan. Go take your Johannesburg phone book, and close your eyes, open the book on any page and then point your finger at a name. What are the chances that you'll pick a world class athlete? 1 in 100? 1 in a 1000? Turns out the probability is 1 in 500,000 to 1 million. That's how small the chances are of becoming an elite athlete. That's because it takes so many amazing factors to produce a world class performer. Genetics, good coaches, good facilities, supportive parents, a support group of peers, luck. Now, imagine I introduce to this argument another factor - the person who you pick must be a double amputee! The reality is that double amputees are incredibly rare. Then on top of this, they have get extensive physio and training, and also have a fair degree of wealth. There are a lot of double amputees in the world, but most of them are in war-torn areas. So when you play this probability scenario, then it becomes clear that the chances of a double amputee 'over-running" athletics is one in 100 million, maybe 1 in a billion. Does this make oscar Pistorius remarkable? Absolutely, nobody ever said differently. Does it mean he has no advantage? No, and that's a separate question, and the science suggests a big advantage. Ross Tucker

  • Lefty - 2011-07-24 22:01

    As wat Tucker te sê het, korrek is, dan het Pistorius 'n voorsprongen dit is die einde van die saak. Emposievolle argumente hou nie water nie,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, uit en gedaan. Wonder net of Tucker die joernalis genader het of andersom. Met ander woorde wie het die vuurtjie weer aan die brand gesteek?

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:20

      Hi Lefty. Thank you for the balanced response and for recognizing the value of the science. The journalist contacted me about the story, after Pistorius because newsworthy again as a result of qualifying. That said, I do think that science has a responsibility to initiate discussion about this kind of thing, and particularly in sport, it's everyone's business and if science didn't take the responsibility, from time to time, to raise points like this, I think it would be a pity. But in this instance, I was contacted for my views. Ross

  • jurie.grobler - 2011-07-24 22:45

    Tucker, your whole comment is flawed. Certainly there is an advantage with the limbs moving faster in a straight line, but that advantage is totally negated by the lack of maneuverability around corners and the extreme sluggishness of these limbs out of the starting blocks! This race is NOT run in a straight line and from a standing start! VERY VERY WELL DONE OSCAR!

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:17

      Hello Jurie So here's the thing. The first research study actually looked at him running on a track, so it already controlled for the corners. The second one was done on a treadmill and if you've ever run on a treadmill at faster than 20km/h then you'd know that balance there is even harder than on the bends of a track. So despite these tests being stacked against him, he still has this advantage. The next thing is the start - how much time do you think he loses? I'm curious, because I bet you say more than a second, two seconds maybe? would that be accurate? But now look at his 100m time. He runs 10.9s. So if he has lost 2 seconds at the start, he is capable of running 8.91seconds! Incredible. Even 1 seconds at the start, means he runs 9.91s, which makes him faster than Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner. No, the time lost because of sluggishness at the start is less than 1%. Compared to the 20% that gains later. So again, if you remove the emotion, which I realize sounds heartless, but it's for the best interests of the sport, then even simple arithmetic makes Pistorius' advantage large. Ross

  • Anneck - 2011-07-24 23:27

    At the end of the day, how can anyone without legs have an unfair advantage? Leave him alone and let him compete!

  • meelo - 2011-07-25 00:08

    Anneck and company i was a specialist 400 meter athlete. Understanding the sport allows you to know what Tucker speaks of. he has 50% less muscles, where does the power come from ? secondly less oxygen required and also almost no lactic acid build up in the body, No calves, no hamstrings, no gluteas Maximus or medius. How does he train to become more powerful ?

      Funjunky - 2011-07-25 09:22

      Meelo. Your knowledge of the human anatomy leaves a lot to be desired. Firstly he has to work twice as hard to maintain balance and co-ordination. His legs pump more and that ups his heart rate. Which inturn requires more oxygen intake. He does build up lactic acid and he has less space to distribute it as his legs are shorter than the normal human being. He has no calves true but you forget where your hamstring, gluteas maximus and medius are.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:43

      Not true. First, he doesn't have to work twice as hard. What the research has shown is that he uses 17% less energy, even when running on a treadmill, than other sprinters. When on a flat, firm surface, it's 25% less energy. His heart rate is lower as a result. He builds up less lactic acid because his muscle mass is lower and requires 20% less work to accelerate his limbs. Where he does have to work harder is in balance and postural control, but once someone is sprinting, this has a very, very small contribution to make. To illustrate this, try riding a bicycle at 25km/hour compared to at 3km/hour and see which is more difficult. Balance is easier at higher speeds. So the postural issue is a factor for walking, but that's why he doesn't walk in the carbon fibre blades. His legs are also not shorter - they've been corrected to give him the height based on his skeleton. If anything, taller, and some of his rivals have objected to the longer length of the limbs. Ross Tucker

      Funjunky - 2011-07-25 11:30

      Ross im not disagreeing with what you are saying. But think about what was said in the article. Have you tested Oscars resting as well as running heart rate. If his leg speed is 16% faster then he is using more effort. At SA's a few years back. When i spoke to him he said its a lot like trying to run on a trampoline. He has severe lower back ache and feels mentally tired. True on a bicycle the higher your speed the less you have to concentrate. But Oscars wheels arent round.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 15:04

      Yes, but heart rate is irrelevant to 400m performance. Yours & mine might be different too, but that's because we're different and heart rate has a large genetic component, so it's irrelevant. Heart rate tells nothing about work being done. Oxygen consumption does,and those results show conclusively that he uses 25% LESS than able-bodied runners. That's shown by two separate studies, and it trumps heart rate considerably. And no, his leg speed is faster because his legs are much, much lighter, not because of more effort. I've read the study, it's clear that it takes LESS work to accelerate the lighter mass. Also less force needs to be applied to the ground to generate push-off force, because of the elastic recoil of carbon fibre, which returns more energy than human tendons (80% vs 50 to 60%). I'm sure that he does engage his core muscles, but that is not a performance disadvantage. The issue is that movement introduces a vector that provides stability. As for running on trampolines, I think that says a great deal about advantage. It's not a disadvantage to run on a trampoline. The only consideration is control, but that's easy to learn. It's like a tennis player saying that the new, high-tech racket is a disadvantage because it hits the ball too hard. It's not a disadvantage - it's just an issue of skill. And mentally tired? That's a characteristic of elite sport. They're all tired,they all work hard, struggle with injury and so on Ross Tucker Ross

      Funjunky - 2011-07-26 11:35

      Ross. Is there a link where we can view the findings pertaining to Oscars testing. I am still avidly involved in coaching. I focus a lot of my attention on disabled athletes.

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-26 14:49

      Hi Funjunky No problem. There are a few. The most recent paper is here: The research that was presented to the CAS is here: This research is astonishingly weak, and my explanations of this are here: Then, 18 months after the CAS research came out, the paper about the 10 second advantage was published. That's the link I provided above, from the journal of applied physiology. The following was released in conjunction with that paper: The final study is one by Pieter Bruggemann on Pistorius. I have that research paper, but i don't think it was published online. Final quote, this is from the paper written by Peter Weyand and Matt Bundle, after they themselves performed the research on Pistorius: "the moment in athletic history when engineered limbs outperform biological limbs has already passed" Good luck with the coaching! Ross

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-26 14:51

      Sorry, I forgot to post the URL for that one research study: Ross

  • vinchainsaw - 2011-07-25 00:24

    "Tucker was approached by the Ministry of Sport to assist with scientific testing, but Tucker declined as he believed Pistorius had an advantage over able bodied competitors." So Tucker had already made up his mind before the science was verified?

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:13

      No, but what happened was the following: Pistorius announced his intention to compete in 2007. There was some very obvious scientific theory that explained an advantage, but the thinking then was "let's see what testing showed". That testing was done by the IAAF and it confirmed a big advantage - 25% less energy, lower horizontal braking force, less vertical force, less vertical oscillation. After that, Pistorius asked just about everyone to help DISPROVE that research, and I said not possible, because the research finding was clear, that the advantage existed. So if you want the summary - the theory said advantage, the testing confirmed it, and my mind was made up. The latest paper by Peter Weyand showed it even more clearly. Scientifically, I think the answer is clear. Ross Tucker

  • hardloop - 2011-07-25 00:49

    Ask Usain Bolt if he would substitute his legs from the knee down for two pieces of steel...

  • Tjonki - 2011-07-25 04:54

    Whazz-Up Doc, gee die man 'n kans my bru, maskien sien ons weer Mat.Damon in 'n Clint Eastwood movie, "The Blade Runner", dink net Invictus all over again en hierdie keer kan hulle dalk ou Jules gebruik om die rol te vertolk as Caster bloody agent...LOL

      Ross Tucker - 2011-07-25 09:44

      Ha, well at least you've approached it with a sense of humor, I can appreciate that! Cheers! Ross

  • Ferraro - 2011-07-25 04:57

    Stop being so emotional. Tucker is world renowned and is right hand man to one of the most influential Sports Science doctors in the world. Your lack of scientific knowledge is tainted by emotions and the "lets feel sorry for the guy with no legs" attitude. Oscar is a champion and accepted his fate, he wouldn't be running and competing if he was feeling sorry for himself. Science will always come out on top. The End.

  • Dan - 2011-07-25 05:31

    Well, it does seem quite obvious that Pistorius has a significant advantage. He is disabled andtherefore should be classified and compete as a disabled. Take the girls in swimming that lost her leg in an accident as an excellent example. She is competing with her disability with abled bodied swimmers. She never asked some scientist to engineer fins for her. If we have to compare apples with apples, the Natelie du Toit has all the rights to ask for special "engineered" fins to assist her in swimming. She is therefore truely remarkable "sportman" and Pistorius has always been a fraud. That is a scientific fact and not emotion.

  • Marcell - 2011-07-25 05:52

    As a scientist Tucker should proof his believe.

  • gansgatte - 2011-07-25 06:57

    lets make the playing field level -- let all the other competetors amputate their legs - get blades and run --as if that would happen-- the true spirit of the O-GAMES is about the human indurance and perseverence -- now if Oscar is not the absolute symbol of that spirit, then the Games are lost. he could even get a special medal -- but let the man compete!

  • dfd - 2011-07-25 07:04

    If Casta Semenya can run against "able bodied"women, then Oscar can run against able bodied men.!!!

  • dfd - 2011-07-25 07:06

    If Casta Semenya can run against "able -bodied" Women, then Oscar can run against able- bodied men!!!

  • theunsvw - 2011-07-25 07:34

    It's like putting a rocket in your pocket and say, "I'm good....!" All of the best for him though, he should compete against other blade runners..!

  • Babba x - 2011-07-25 07:43

    Ross Tucker's opinion does not count for anything. So jong kind het nog baie om te leer

  • Grizzly - 2011-07-25 08:14

    Doc: Pistorius has unfair edge?????? half his legs are missing???? what advantage could there possibly be??? one could argue from a scientific viewpoint that his equipment enhances his ability... but again...the man is missing half his legs... what advantage???? such a sad day when the human spirit is no longer recognised...when we have all been reduced to clueless critics eager to voice our own opinion... on things we know nothing about... Oscar, what you have achieved is amazing and you are a true inspiration to us all... Keep on flying my friend!!!!

  • Amratian - 2011-07-25 08:54

    Tucker has no point, not now, not ever. He looks at the 'blades' in isolation. There is a body going with them! Not a very scientific observation mr Tucker.Leave Oscar be, he is an inspiration to thousands of people. He has no unfair advantage - unless you have some other motive for discrediting him?

  • Funjunky - 2011-07-25 09:08

    I agree with everything said here. Except the fact that they forget to mention how much time is lost by a double amputee when the gun goes off at the start of a race. They dont mention the hugh emotional strain it takes to firstly concentrate where he is running and secondly to keep his balance. There is also no mention of how much harder he has to train than normal bodied athletes to maintain his fitness. His legs arent as strong as a able bodied athlete. The amount of force created by the blades per cubic inch is also something scientists forget about. The effects that this force has on the human body is incredible.German and Swiss scientist compare it to jumping of a two meter stage and landing straight legged. Weighing up the pros and cons, i would say he is helped through science to be a perfect disabled athlete. Take a page from his book. Stop complaining and let the man live.

  • Graham - 2011-07-25 09:22

    Arguing "for" and "against" the issue is easy. Both arguments can be made with the words: For - "Come on guys, he has no legs!!" - The fact that a person with no legs is able to compete should actually overlook any evidence brought against him. let the kid run! It's awesome. Against - "Come on guys, he has no legs!!" - The fact that a guy with no legs can compete with the fastest people on Earth, WITH NO LEGS, seems a bit strange. Let him run with the guys at the Paralympics - They also have no legs. Awesome debate. At the end of the day only good can come of Pistorius competing with the "have-legs" guys. An absolute triumph of human spirit (and engineering.....!) It will all be ok.......... until he runs third or better at the Olympics... Then the knives will be out!

  • AgileBee - 2011-07-25 10:37

    I'm almost sure there other double amputee athletes out there that use the same or similar "blades" for competing. Why is Oscar being singled out? When Oscar's out there competing we are all rooting for him to win. Leave the guy alone and lets all be proud of what he has acheived for this country!

  • Lions Man - 2011-07-25 12:10

    A couple of questions Dr Tucker. Firstly who wrote the two papers you refer too? If i'm not mistaken its his main competitor from the States, who pushed it? Secondly, unless you can compare the blades to Oscar having complete legs the study is flawed. We can't hypothesis from other athletes how his lower legs would have reacted or how strong they would have been, but its exactly that a hypothesis. So just like some people are stronger than other how can figures of 20% be accurate? If I can leg press 200kg and you can leg press 100kg my legs are stronger, now you can never know just how strong his legs actually would have been so who's to say that his lower legs wouldn't have been more than 20% stronger than other able bodied athletes? The figure of 16% can also be argued. I'm sure the additional power coming from his lower legs if they were there and improved biomechanics would make up for the 16%. Another question, has the loss of energy from the flex of the blades been included in the calculations? One final thing, just because I ride the latest and greatest bicycle it won't make me compete with Cadal Evans anymore than Oscar running with blades will make him compete with Usian Bolt if he didn't have talent.

  • Funjunky - 2011-07-25 12:53

    Ross. How fast would Usain Bolt be if he had the same prostethis. Bolt is deemed to be the man that will first run under 9 seconds. How much faster would he be with blades.

  • Jerry - 2011-07-25 12:59

    Tumbs-up for Tucker replying on the comments. This makes the article much more credible.

  • Shirley - 2011-07-25 13:11

    This Pistorius is such an asswipe. we all know he's a double amputee, so when is he going to get the picture???? why doesn't he piss off and compete with the disabled atheletes???? take your blades kackass, and your advantages - whatever they may be - and go and run somewhere else, and leave those able to do the job properly to do the job properly!

      Lions Man - 2011-07-25 13:21

      Are you a troll or do you just enjoy making a fool of yourself? Your lack of class is scary.

  • Mike - 2011-07-25 13:38

    I agree with Ross 100% here. But there are two issues and Ross is talking purely from a scientific perspective. We all want Oscar to do well and we admire his ability to have overcome what he has. he is the first to challenge the able bodied community as a disabled athlete and the physical and emotional strength he has needed do that is amazing. If this was just about an emotional issue then it would be clear cut... but it isn't.

  • LostEuropean - 2011-07-25 15:05

    Ross, I fully agree with you. Oscar is an inspiration, and I commend him for what he's done, but his latest antics (going door to door to find a 'scientist' that will make a finding to favour him) has detracted from that respect. I love using analogies to explain things, and I can for the life of me not think of a proper one in this case, but wish that you could think of one. Mind you, the knuckleheads commenting on this article will STILL not agree. To anyone who is still reading my comment: LEAVE EMOTIONS ASIDE, and think about what Ross and other scientists are saying. Think about it this way: if pull-ups was a sport, don't you think the guy without legs (i.e. huge weight difference, and advantage) would be MUCH better at it?

  • LostEuropean - 2011-07-25 15:18

    Ross, I fully agree with you. Oscar is an inspiration, and I commend him for what he's done, but his latest antics (going door to door to find a 'scientist' that will make a finding to favour him) has detracted from that respect. I love using analogies to explain things, and I can for the life of me not think of a proper one in this case, but wish that you could think of one. Mind you, the knuckleheads commenting on this article will STILL not agree. To anyone who is still reading my comment: LEAVE EMOTIONS ASIDE, and think about what Ross and other scientists are saying. Think about it this way: if pull-ups was a sport, don't you think the guy without legs (i.e. huge weight difference, and advantage) would be MUCH better at it?

  • Shumba - 2011-07-25 21:33

    Everyone who is arguing on the basis that oscar has had it tough his whole life and is so inspirational and therefore should be allowed to compete should realize that this is a professional sport and not a feel good fairy tale. And for the idiots who argue that the advantage he has on the straights is negated by balance issues, chaffing, physical discomfort, etc, YOU ARE JUST ADMITTING HE HAS AN ADVANTAGE. If there is any doubt whatsoever, then he should be stopped competing. Simple as that. This isn't kindergarten where every kid gets a medal for trying. This is the real world. Yes it's harsh, but that's life.

  • Ginseng - 2011-07-26 03:18

    @SX137 If Natalie Du Toit had to have a giant flipper attached to her missing leg and began competing against able bodied olympic swimmers, would that be fair? Just like flippers instead of legs would make humans faster in the water, blades would make people run faster. When your speed on the track is largely determined by what scientists can create with carbon fiber in a lab, then the use of blades is no better than doping in able bodied events. This isn't rocket science.

  • meelo - 2011-07-26 05:16

    Funjunky -you know nothing, he doesnt have a knee so how does he perform flexion or extension of the quad or the hamstrings muscles, automatically that eliminates the neuromuscular efficiency. No shin muscles to perform dorsi flexion or plantif flextion.

      Funjunky - 2011-07-26 11:30

      Again Meelo your lack of intellect is highly apparent. Oscar was born with Congenital absence of the fibula. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles. (The fibula or calf bone is a bone located on the lateral side of the tibia, with which it is connected above and below. It is the smaller of the two bones, and, in proportion to its length, the most slender of all the long bones.) Had Oscar been able to keep his legs(below the shin) he would have been able to perform dorsi and plantarflextion. Im not berating your googled intellect. Just your lack of correct information.

  • James - 2011-07-26 07:21

    Agreed. Hat's off to Ross Tucker..... looking below you have patiently fielded every emotive ill-informed response and crass objection with more grace than some of these bloggers deserve..

  • Darron - 2011-07-30 09:30

    Ross, we live in a world where emotion and opinion do count. You cannot separate these two aspects from science and believe therefore that a decision, with regard to Pistorius' perceived advantage, is thus the correct one. Emotion and opinion add the moral imperative into the mix, which has ensured the veracity of the current ruling allowing Oscar to participate. Applied correctly, science would be of far better use ridding this world of all the drug cheats against whom Oscar no doubt has to compete. What about the "unfair advantage" they enjoy? On balance, the fact that Oscar is currently the only disabled athlete that can hold his own against able - bodied runners, surely suggests that the disadvantages most disabled athletes have over able - bodied athletes cannot be overcome by simply using advanced prosthetics. If so, we would have an abundance of disabled runners competing in able - bodied events. Oscar has reached the the level at which he competes due to his extraordinary drive and mental focus, which is clearly superior to that of other athletes. Do we penalise him for that as well? If we only apply science to the equation without the mitigation of emotion and opinion, we will be doing just that. You cannot truly quantify the advantages of mental state in a race. Imagine disqualifying an athlete from a race because his mental state gives him an unfair advantage over his competitors? The suggestion that Oscar's limbs give him an edge are just as preposterous!

  • Leviathan - 2011-07-30 09:49

    im studin sports science and this is 100% true

  • papio - 2011-08-03 18:52

    We live in the 21st century and I believe we should role with it! Surely the blades have their advantages and probably disadvantages that no one cares to mention. Does Hussain Bolt have an unfair advantage cause he is taller? One day we'll have genetically amplified humans and what then? We have seen the gender query leads to discrimination, so just sit back and enjoy! It's all made for entertainment!

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