The Paralympics Crisis

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright March 2017



The Olympics is about displaying the best of human athletic endeavor -- natural human endeavor, not augmented human endeavor. The augmenting part is an ongoing, powerful temptation and there are both lots of rules and lots of testing to keep it out of the competition. (at least in theory) One new testing style that will emerge in the 2050's is for illegal genetic modifications.

And then there is the Paralympics. In the 2010's this is about letting people with disabilities compete with each other. But these people with disabilities also have tools of various sorts to assist them. This means they are, in effect, augmented.

I foresee that as the Paralympics evolve over the next few decades this augmentation side is going to grow both in extent and in controversy. What is OK to bring to these contests, and what is way, way too much?

Problem recognized

The Wikipedia article on Paralympics describes this problem as already recognized. From the article, "The allowable disabilities are broken down into ten eligible impairment types. ... The classification system has led to cheating controversies revolving around athletes who over-stated their disabilities, in addition to the use of performance-enhancing drugs."

What this means is... "It's complicated." And what that means is that it will be subjected to constant pressure to be adapting to what new generations of human enhancement technology can accomplish. The Olympics authorities have a really simple agenda compared to what the Paralympics authorities have to rule on.

This 2 May 17 WSJ article, Track and Field Officials Propose Erasing Half of World Records European report calls for stricter antidoping measures, removing performances that failed to meet those rules from world record lists by Sara Germano, talks about how this is already a big issue in the 2010's.

From the article, "Track and field officials have proposed reforms that would wipe more than half of Olympic-discipline world records from the books, a drastic step to clean up the image of a sport dogged by a long history of doping."

What's coming

What is coming for the Paralympics is lots of adaptation. But this adapting is going to be filled with lots of controversy and lots of emotion.

If it chooses not to adapt it will steadily become more and more of a backwater in the world of sporting endeavors. If it adapts well then it will become the NASCAR of sporting endeavors -- there will be an exciting mix of both human and technological endeavors on display. I can foresee the equivalent of pit stops coming up for aspiring athletes as they fine tune their equipment before their next contest.

This controversy over what is acceptable could easily lead to splits or spin-offs from the current organization.

But, with human augmentation becoming more and more a part of everyone's lives, I foresee that some kind of Olympics venue that caters to augmentation is going to be part of our future, and a popular and interesting part for many people.

There will be the purist Olympics versions and "run what'cha brung" Paralympics versions, and all will be popular, to distinctively different audiences.



--The End--