At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa made history. He became the first amputee to compete at the Olympics. According to Pistorius, both of his legs were amputated below his knees before he learned to walk. After dominating in the Paralympic Games in Athens and Beijing, Pistorius represented South Africa in the 400-meter race and the 4 x 400 meter relay in the London Games. While he did not medal, Pistorius, or the “Blade Runner,” became a global icon. After the Olympic Games in London, Pistorius became a role model and inspiration for athletes with physical disabilities everywhere.
Mike Lavaque-Marty’s Being a Woman and Other Disabilities describes the struggle of woman and the physically disabled to participate in athletics because of stereotypes society has created. Society has developed an attitude that women or the physically disabled are unable to perform at the level of male athletes. Because of these stereotypes, society judges the athletic success of females and the disabled on male athlete performance, downgrading and devaluing the athletic ability of women and the physically disabled athletes. Pistorius broke all the stereotypes and proved society wrong. Pistorius, as a physically disabled runner competing against the fastest runners in the world, showed the world how a physically disadvantaged athlete is capable of athletic success. Pistorius adopted the motto, “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”
Unfortunately, on February 14, 2013, Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend. Pistorius admitted to shooting her, but he claimed that he thought she was an intruder. Pistorius was charged for culpable homicide, or “unlawful negligent killing of a human being.” He has been sentenced for a maximum of 5 years in jail. Pistorius’ attorneys believe that in 10 months, he should be considered for house arrest.
Pistorius and his representatives claim that prisons are not safe for people with physical disabilities. They note that the showers in prison do not have handrails, and Pistorius would be exposed to different diseases. Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, is “not sure” why this was even part of the case. According to The Guardian, Zuma said, “I thought that was an unfortunate debate. You don’t need it, because there are people who are disabled who are in prison. Why is it raised as if he was the first one to be convicted? I thought they were pushing it too far.”
I find it very disappointing how a man less than two years ago was being praised for his athletic achievements as a physically disabled man is now attempting to use his disability to get out of prison. He prided himself on not letting his disability hold him back. Pistorius broke the disability barrier, proving to the world that there isn’t this large gap between female, male and disabled athletes. Now that he faces years in jail, he is reversing his position. For someone who advocated for disabled athletes to compete with everyone else, and not use their disability as an excuse, it is very ironic that he is now using his disability to avoid his punishment.
Pistorius could have been a revolutionary and an icon for generations to come. He provided disabled athletes the inspiration and motivation to break the barrier between male and paraplegic athletics. The stereotypes that Lavaque-Marty pointed out could have been broken. Now, Pistorius is just a hypocritical felon making excuses for himself.