“The fastest thing on no legs”

Special report: Frontiers of humanity
Oscar Pistorius or the showcase of the frontiers of the human
By Anne Marcellini, Michel Vidal, Sylvain Ferez, Éric de Léséleuc

In the beginning of the 21st century, a man who would have been characterized as infirm thirty years ago questions the sporting institution by demanding participation in able-bodied sports competitions. Oscar Pistorius, who presents himself as “the fastest thing on no legs”, has since 2004 triggered a controversy about his status involving international organizations of Olympic and Paralympic sports, as well as the scientific community. This controversy exceeds widely his individual case to raise the question of the status of “technologized athletes” in general. The study of the debates shows that, more than the mere question of equity, the controversy about Oscar Pistorius links issues of doping, of the technological compensation of disabilities, and the biomedical reparation of impairments. Thus, the sports arena opens a political debate about what place should be given in current and future societies to the “technologically enhanced” and potentially hyper-successful human. This debate also allows understanding of the symbolic stakes of the contemporary sporting spectacle.


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