There is no artificial enhancer that can give a man without legs the will to run in the Olympics.
Oscar Pistorius prosthetic calves are hardly his greatest advantage. You cant manufacture his brand of emotional gasoline, or build aspiration out of carbon fiber, or put it in his blood with EPO, either.
The substance he runs on is called the athletic heart, and there is no external way of acquiring it, and its why our fretting over so-called enhancement is misguided.
The curl-tipped carbon blades on which Pistorius runs look sort of like antique cross-country skis. Unless they look like coat hooks, or lawn implements, or wall brackets, or giant barrette clips. In any case the notion that they might somehow improperly aid the South African sprinter, that they could transform him, in the cuttingly funny words of NBCs Mary Carillo, into a super speedy cyborg kangaroo, is laughable.
As the manufacturer of his prosthetics crucially observes, they are dead objects – they wont run unless somebody makes them.
Pistorius poses uncomfortable questions to the anti-enhancement crazies, about the definition of artificial advantage.
He exposes the futility of trying to judge the unnatural competitor versus the organic and therefore acceptable one in modern competition.
Five years ago the international governing body of track and field declared Pistorius ineligible when scientists decided Cheetah blades gave him an edge.
But Pistorius took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which found that he did not gain any quantifiable benefit, and overturned the ban.
On Wednesday, Pistorius was named to the South African Olympic team in the 400 meters and the 1,600 relay.
Medical experts disagree on the values of Pistorius blades: Some say they give him spring, while others note the high turnover rate of his thighs, which suggests his speed is self-generated. Still others voice the lunatic idea that because he has no calves he doesnt suffer from lactic acid buildup.
Just try to apply the World Anti-Doping Agencys code for outlawing artificial substances to Pistorius legs: Do they violate the spirit of the sport?
Why are we always trying to police the methods of athletes?
What is at the root of the concern that they might do something unnatural or artificial?
Maybe its that elite athletes are a reproach to our averageness, and, more importantly, our average habits.
They are creatures of extreme practices, stresses and obsessions; they seek marginal improvements in hundredths through all sorts of artificialities, hypoxic chambers, wind tunnels, high tech fabrics, and extreme diets.
Maybe what lies behind this fixation on enhancement is fear. We are desperate to maintain the dream that the average, regular, everyday person can win something big. Its a self-lie.
No, you cant.
As my friend Eugene Robinson once wrote, There is no drug on Earth that can enable me – or you – to drive a 95-mph fastball over the left-field wall.
Trying to legislate level equality in sport is a fools quest; it is rife with artificial advantages. Kenyans and Ethiopians have a competitive advantage in distance running – they live at higher altitudes than the rest of us and train in thin air.
Why dont we outlaw the Eldoret Highlands?
There is one unnatural substance that is more enhancing and advantageous than any other on this earth: money. A sprinters custom made shoes can cost $10,000.
The best profile of Pistorius to date is Carillos for NBC, which aired on Rock Center.
It contains this story: When Pistorius was a small boy his family took him to the beach. He noticed that he left marks in the sand unlike other children.
My footprints are different, he said. No, his parents replied, theyre just better.
Isnt it time we discard this anxiety we have about the unequal distribution of advantage, and quit trying to define a quantifiable edge? The phrase goes to our eternally adolescent fear that life isnt fair.
Well, it isnt.
Meet Oscar Pistorius. Who proves that nothing is a dead object if the athletic heart animates it.