Prosthetics in Sports: Disability or Advantage? Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee from South Africa, calls himself the fastest man on no legs. He wants to race on prosthetics against the best two-legged sprinters in the world. But the international governing body on track and field declared that his prosthetics give him an unfair advantage.
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Prosthetics in Sports: Disability or Advantage?

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Prosthetics in Sports: Disability or Advantage?

Prosthetics in Sports: Disability or Advantage?

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Technology gives many disabled people the ability to participate in competitive athletics, and the Paralympics are now well established alongside the Olympic games. Now Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee from South Africa, wants to race on prosthetics on the big stage against the best two-legged sprinters in the world. The international governing body on track and field declared that his prosthetics are springs which give him an unfair advantage, but the case raises questions about technology and fairness.

Are carbon fiber legs different from the glasses that correct the vision of a competitive archer or the LASIK eye surgery that gave Tiger Woods better than 20-20 vision? What about the operation that replaces the blown tendon in the arm of a baseball pitcher with a stronger one from another part of his body? As technology improves, will athletes install artificial knees? Where do you draw the line between giving athletes the ability to compete and a level playing field?

Our number is 800-989-8255, that's 800-989-TALK. Email is You can also join the conversation on our blog; that's at Later on in the program, we'll talk with basketball vagabond Paul Shirley about life in the NBA and many lesser leagues. But first, bionic jocks - and we begin with Jere Longman, a reporter for the New York Times. He's with us on the phone from his hotel room outside of Detroit. Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. JERE LONGMAN (Reporter, New York Times): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: So tell us about Oscar Pistorius's bid to compete in the Olympics and why it's so controversial.

Mr. LONGMAN: Well, Oscar is a 20-year-old sprinter from South Africa whose times in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 400 meters are beginning to approach Olympic qualifying standards. So it's raised, you know - there's a kind of natural tension at play between the right to compete and the right to fair play. So the International Track and Field Federation has made a preliminary ruling disallowing springs or wheels or those kind of devices that may give athletes an unfair advantage.

CONAN: So it's not against prosthetics per se; if he was a sprinter who had a prosthetic arm, that wouldn't be a problem?

Mr. LONGMAN: No, exactly. As a matter of fact, there's as much concern that able-bodied athletes may begin using, you know, some sort of springy device or, you know, in their shoes or things like that. It's not just even a ruling looking strictly at disabled athletes.

CONAN: And is there concern down the road that as technology improves, people may want to - some might call it self-mutilation, others might call it improvement - put things in their bodies that would make them more competitive?

Mr. LONGMAN: There is that concern, although, you know, for many years athletes have manipulated themselves in many ways as you mentioned earlier, you know, LASIK surgery to improve your vision, equipment - swimming. You know, swimsuits are made to make athletes much quicker in the water, you know, aerodynamically, and track suits - so in many ways - and athletes sleep in chambers to simulate high altitude and increase oxygen-carrying capacity.

So in many ways they manipulate themselves already. The key is finding sort of an objective point where therapy becomes enhancement, and I think that's what the International Track Federation is up against to decide, you know, at what point do Oscar's legs move from therapy or corrective device to a device that gives him enhancement and performance.

CONAN: And I guess this goes into the realm of drugs as well. You mentioned the hyperbaric chamber. That's okay. Blood doping is not.

Mr. LONGMAN: No, and the next thing on the horizon is gene doping, where essentially the theory is that by using a benign virus and injecting it into your muscles, that you'll be able to TiVo, you know, fast-twitch muscles the way you TiVo television programs now. And then the only way to detect that would be a muscle biopsy. So the advance of technology is, you know, is forcing sports officials to confront this - this - increasingly - this notion of, you know, where does the right to compete conflict with fair playing field, level playing field?

CONAN: And they would say that perhaps Mr. Pistorius' best place to run is in the Paralympic Games, but others would say, wait a minute, as distinguished as that is, as important as that is, compared to the Olympic games it's a sideshow.

Mr. LONGMAN: Right. And his argument is that, well, you know, it's not an advantage at all. I don't have my two lower legs, and the prosthetic legs give you less of an energy return than natural legs do. When he runs into a wind, his legs - the rotational forces tend to turn his prosthetic devices sideways. So he can't start in the same way that an able-bodied sprinter can. He basically has to stand up and just start running instead of being in a more aerodynamic position. So you know, he's up against a lot of things.

CONAN: And so, yeah, he can't get down into that sprinter's crouch and explode out of it the way fully-abled sprinters do.

Mr. LONGMAN: No, the way able-bodied sprinters - they just don't pop up and run. They - it's called the drive phase or the transitional phase when they come up into, you know, to guard against wind resistance. And they come up gradually and reach their peak form, you know, further down the track. He basically has to pop up and sprint in very choppy steps. It takes him about 30 meters or so to get his full, you know, speed going in.

And the concern - the primary concern among the officials at the International Track Federation is that he - Oscar had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. So there is no way to know how fast he would've been on natural legs versus prosthetic legs, and there's no precise way to know how tall he would have been. There's some feeling among track officials and some competitors that the prosthetic devices he uses make him taller than he would have been naturally and may give him a longer stride than he would have had.

And speed is a product of the length of stride and the frequency of stride. Although there's not been much science done - and I think that's Oscar's point, is that, well, you can't prove that there's, you know, that I have this sort of advantage or that my stride is too long; he's afraid that decisions are being made on supposition rather than on science, and I think everyone agrees that more science has to be done.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on this conversation. 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK, email is And let's start with Karen, Karen on the line with us from Tucson, Arizona.

KAREN (Caller): Hello.


KAREN: My comment is that - not to descend into being maudlin, but isn't the Olympic spirit supposed to be about overcoming hardships and trials and triumphing in the end? And I'll take my comments off the air.

CONAN: Karen, thanks very much.

Mr. LONGMAN: Yes, I mean, that's - one of the sports ethicists I talked to said that's the problem with making a rash, you know, a hasty decision to ban Oscar, is that that's - that's one of - you know, he's overcoming an credible hardship, and that's one of the fundamental principles of the Olympics.

CONAN: And therefore, that - should it be an exception, or should there be just a philosophical rethinking?

Mr. LONGMAN: Well, I think - I think everyone is calling for - for instance, since 2004, transgender athletes are allowed to compete in the Olympics. So they, you know, scientists determined a point at which everyone could agree that, you know, after taking hormones for certain period that if you say you are a male athlete who became a female athlete, there's a, you know, prescribed period of time you have to take hormones, and there's an agreement that after a certain period that your muscle-building capacity would be lessened enough that you could compete against other women - you know, in a fair way. So people are calling for that same way with prosthetic devices.

You have to make a, you know, an objective, defined point where - as I said -where a therapy becomes enhancement. And until that's done, it's going to be, I think, very difficult to say, okay, you can't compete here, because there just hasn't been a science yet.

CONAN: Wheels is the other - the springs, the carbon fiber legs, I guess, qualify as springs - wheels, there are some wheelchair athletes who say they should be allowed to compete in races too.

Mr. LONGMAN: Well, for a long time - and there are, you know, there are limits placed on technology. There have been historically. I mean, you know, the pole vault, the pole used in a pole vault at one point, you know, was - before it was made out of carbon fiber was, you know, didn't bend as much…

CONAN: Bamboo, yeah.

Mr. LONGMAN: And there were, you know, the design of a javelin has been changed so it doesn't fly as long as it used to and then - so it won't become a dangerous weapon. So wheelchair athletes are not allowed to compete in the Olympic marathon, for instance, because they're much faster. It would give you, you know, half an hour advantage or so competing in a wheelchair versus an able-bodied runners. So there have historically been limits.

CONAN: Here is an email from Rory in Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm an individual who is a paraplegic athlete and through integration of individuals, and though integration of individuals with the disabilities with able-bodied individuals is a step in the right direction and noble prospect, I believe that certain prosthetics can give advantages that do not provide a level playing field as a whole. We can all get fancy equipment, but where do we draw the line to give oneself enhancement opportunities to compete?

Mr. LONGMAN: Well, that's, you know, that's the question that the ethicists and sports officials are going to be faced with increasingly, I think, in the coming years. I mean, we - in February a high jumper named Jeff Skiba, who has one leg amputated below the knee, competed in the United States Indoor Track and Field championships against able-bodied athletes. And in March, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa finished second in the 400-meters against able-bodied runners in the South African championship.

So as disabled athletes gain access to better coaching, better training methods and their performances increase, that question of where do you draw the line is going to become increasingly urgent to answer.

CONAN: Let's talk with Eddie. Eddie's on the line with us from Sacramento.

EDDIE (Caller): Hello. My grandpa played football back in the '40s for the NFL and he always talked about how they didn't have weight programs and things like that. And once that kind of started everybody started doing it. And I think that this is just another one of those things where once somebody does it, it's going to be the natural - well, it's kind of unnatural at this point - but the natural evolution of things that athletes do to better themselves. It's going to start happening.

CONAN: It's already happening, I guess, Eddie. But I guess the question we're asking is, is where do you draw the line? I mean could you have some, you know, metal reinforcement put into, you know, a halfback's arm so that when he gives that forearm shiver, it has a completely different effect?

EDDIE: That's true. I think they should draw the line to the point of was it necessary that they have that? Did they have an injury where it was necessary -not to necessarily make the bionic man, you know, out there? But I think that it's going to happen whether we like it or not. You know, I mean it's just going to - like anything else, like any technology.

CONAN: As Eddie says, Jere Longman, this is an issue that's not going away. It's going to raise more and more questions.

Mr. LONGMAN: Oh, sure. I mean, we've, you know, in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Marla Runyan, a legally blind athlete, competed in the - she reached the final of the metric mile or 1,500 meters, became the first Paralympic athlete to compete in the Olympics.


Mr. LONGMAN: So this, you know, this question of where do you draw the line, I mean that's a very urgent question, you know, and if you include the doping situation, maybe the most urgent question in sports today, and the answer is we don't know the answer at this point. You know, that will be left to scientists and sports officials and ethicists to figure out, you know, what point, whatever technological device - is it avail to everyone? Is it, you know, does it give you, as I say, does it turn from a corrective device to an enabling device? I mean, those are the kind of questions they're going to have to answer.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Eddie. And Jere Longman, thank you for your time today.

Mr. LONGMAN: Thank you. I appreciate it.

CONAN: Jere Longman is a reporter for the New York Times, with us today from his hotel room outside of Detroit, Michigan. When we come back from the break, we'll be talking with a member of the IAAF Council. The people who decide about things like, well, springs and wheels.

I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking today about bionic jocks and where do you draw the line between disabled and enhanced. A double amputee who sprints on two carbon fiber legs has been told he cannot compete in the Olympic games because his prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage. Other athletes have LASIK surgery or elbow surgery to help them compete. Where is the line between giving athletes the ability to compete and a level playing field?

800-989-8255. 800-989-TALK. Email is You can also give us your thoughts on our blog,

With us now is Bob Hersh. He's a member of the IAAF Council. The International Association of Athletics Federation is the world governing body for track and field. Bob's in a studio at member station WRHU in Long Island. Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. ROBERT HERSH (International Association of Athletics Federation Council): Thank you. Good to be here.

CONAN: And you're a member. You're not the person who actually makes the decision yourself, right?

Mr. HERSH: Well, I'm one of the people. I mean, actually the rules are passed by the entire IAAF congress, which is every one of our 211 or 12 members. But the council makes recommendations to the congress, and the council has passed an interim rule that affects the devices and wheels and springs and such when they convey an unfair advantage.

CONAN: Now, when did this come up? Was this in the case of Oscar Pistorius or has this been under consideration for some time?

Mr. HERSH: Well, we - what has been in the rules for sometime is the concept that you can't use things that give you an unfair advantage. We certainly are aware of the Pistorius situation, but the concept that equipment can't give you an unfair advantage is very much ingrained in our rules. For shoes, for instance, we have a specific rule that says the shoe cannot incorporate any technology that will give the wearer any unfair advantage.

So the rule that we passed, which deals with any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device, I just see as an extension of that principle.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And have tests been done to find out, in fact, whether - as you know, Mr. Pistorius says his prosthetics don't give him an advantage. In fact, that they - he gets less return of energy from his carbon fiber legs than regular athletes do from their regular legs. So at that point, is there a test available?

Mr. HERSH: Well, I believe this matter has been referred to our technical people who will determine how best to determine it. But, if I may, let me comment on something that was said earlier.

CONAN: Sure.

Mr. HERSH: We have not told Mr. Pistorius - I don't believe anybody has told Mr. Pistorius that he cannot compete in the Olympic games, and we haven't banned prosthetic legs. The only thing we've done is establish - reconfirm as a principle that we cannot accept technical devices that provide the user with an advantage over somebody not using such a device.

CONAN: Tell me - his application pending then?

Mr. HERSH: Well, I don't know that he has formally applied, but we are aware of it and I believe that people in our technical area will be doing the necessary biomechanical investigation to determine whether his particular prosthesis does or does not convey an unfair advantage.

CONAN: So if the test comes out in his favor, and he does apply, he might be accepted.

Mr. HERSH: Sure. I mean, in the first place, the Olympics are a long way off. We have two world championships between now and then - outdoors this year and indoors next year, plus a lot of competition. Theoretically, this could apply anywhere. We have a major IAAF Grand Prix meet here in New York on Saturday. I don't believe Mr. Pistorius is going to compete. But anybody involved in the sport of athletics in international competition year-round and around the world would be subject to this rule.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Now, this is, you would think - the example was raised in Jere Longman's article - how is this different from something like - and this may not affect your particular field, but just as a theory - how is this different from a LASIK surgery for somebody who's - where in a sport where vision is important, for example?

Mr. HERSH: I don't know. I mean, I think it would be - somebody mentioned the golf example.

CONAN: Sure. Tiger Woods.

Mr. HERSH: It would be up to the golf people to determine whether that's fair or unfair. I can easily imagine they are thinking, well, anybody could get glasses that correct vision to whatever extent he has it, so maybe it's not unfair. I just don't know. I think, again, the concept, the determination of what's fair and what's not fair has to be made. And I think that point has been made earlier, that certain prosthesis can be an advantage and others may not be.

And we certainly are not banning all prosthesis. We're not banning competition by people with prosthetic legs. It really - we have to make it on a case-to-case determination. And if - whatever we determine, I think, would apply not only to sprinters. Jere Longman mentioned sprinters and Pistorius is a sprinter.

CONAN: Right.

Mr. HERSH: But it's possible that in a longer distance event where the mechanics of the start are not as relevant, that there could be something that incorporated springs or wheels or something that could really convey an advantage.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Dave. Dave is with us from San Francisco.

DAVE (Caller): Yes, can you hear me?

CONAN: Yes, you're on the air, Dave. Go ahead, please.

DAVE: Yeah. I'm just curious if there has been any preliminary studies or comparisons between, you know, somebody like Oscar and elite athletes with respect to V02 Max or cardiac output? It seems like a pretty basic sign of whether or not something like prosthetic limbs would be giving an advantage or not. I know these elite athletes, typically, have much higher V02 Maxes and cardiac outputs, and I'll take my answer off the air.

CONAN: Okay. Dave, thanks very much. Would those be among the kinds of tests that technical people might undertake?

Mr. HERSH: I don't know, and I'm not aware of any tests on Oscar or anybody else in that situation. I think, really, we were looking more, and I at least was thinking more of the biomechanical aspects of the device.

CONAN: So the spring aspect…

Mr. HERSH: The spring aspect, yes.

CONAN: And presumably that same thing applies to wheels?

Mr. HERSH: Absolutely.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. HERSH: And I think Jere is quite correct to say, if you allow wheelchair -and by the way, you may be aware that there's been some litigation here in the United States seeking to establish the right of a wheelchair competitor to compete against runners. Well, if, you know, at any distance - appreciable distance at all, there will be a real advantage and it really would change the sport, not in the way that anybody would think is a good idea.

CONAN: Let's get…

Mr. HERSH: At least I wouldn't.

CONAN: …Steve on the line, and Steve is calling us from Ann Arbor in Michigan. Steve, are you there?

STEVE (Caller): Yes. Hi.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

STEVE: My comment is certainly an over-simplified view of it, but I kind of feel that it's really a competition. If you can't compete, you pretty much lose and that's the kind the end of the story. But I also have a question regarding the legality of it and where does this put the Olympic society in terms of countries like the U.S. who have anti-discrimination laws regarding disabilities, and I realize that they are international organization, so that might nullify them from those effects, but does that really affect them?

CONAN: Discrimination laws - do they come in to this, do you think, Robert Hersh?

Mr. HERSH: I think they could, but in a circumstance where there's an obvious nexus between the regulation of the sports officials and the competitive aspect of the sport, I believe that a rule such as this would be upheld.

CONAN: Steve, thanks for the call.

STEVE: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's talk now with Brian Frasure. Brian is a Paralympic athlete and works in the prosthetic industry - fitting people with new prosthetics. He joins us by phone from Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.

And Brian Frasure, nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. BRIAN FRASURE (Paralympic Athlete): Thank you very much for having me.

CONAN: And you've competed against able-bodied athletes. Why is it important that people with prosthetics be able to compete with able-bodied athletes?

Mr. FRASURE: Well, I think we have to back up and talk a little bit more about - I came on to this call a little bit late as far as the discussion was concerned.

When we're talking about whether or not sprinting feet pose an advantage for an amputee athlete, there's a lot of other things we're going to have to consider and that's why I think it's going to be important for the IAAF to include experts from the prosthetic field to have biomechanical backgrounds and expertise in that area, because you can't just consider the response of the prosthetic foot itself. You have to look at how the amputee's gait is affected by the socket that their legs fits into, that comes up and cusps around the knee and that interferes with their range of motion.

So there's a lot of other things that really inhibit the amputee runner besides the foot itself, and to the question, are there data or are there studies that have been done to compare the efficiencies between able-bodied persons and amputees, and there certainly are, and all the data suggests that amputees are at a disadvantage. From an efficiency standpoint, there's several studies that's been done to compare walking with prosthetic feet to able-bodied walkers, and it shows that a single below-the-knee amputee is at - they used 25 percent more oxygen to do the same sort of activities of an able-bodied person. Now, as that amputation moves up, such as an above-the-knee amputee, a bilateral amputee, which is Oscar, those deficiencies increase.

And so we would have to assume, even though there's hasn't been any specific studies done on the running prosthetics, such as the Cheetahs, we would have to assume that many of those deficiencies carry over to running as well. And so with that and regards to that, I would have to say that, you know, my view both as prosthetist and an other amputee sprinter as well who has actually made Oscar's first set of sprinting feet that he competed on in Athens - I've competed against him and trained with him. And as a single below-the-knee amputee myself who was a sprinter before I lost my leg, I've yet to run times on my prosthetic limb that have exceeded the times I was running as an able-bodied athlete. And so that tells me from a personal standpoint, I don't think the leg is an advantage.

And just from everything I've seen, I think that it's important to the fact that you have athletes here who are training as elite athletes, who, for a long time, have gone unrecognized for their accomplishments. And even though there's been certain amount of coverage with the Paralympics, now we've approach the point where there's a possible integration between those two. And I feel that the initial response from everybody that's been involved with this is more out of a response of not having a lot of education in the area, maybe some fear of integration of the two versus really wanting to look at the hardcore data to say, okay, running on prosthetics is an advantage or it isn't.

CONAN: Could you describe these legs - the Cheetah, obviously named after the African cat?

Mr. FRASURE: Yeah. It was actually a name that came about - that was named by the athletes themselves. It's actually called the Flexrun 3, but the Cheetahs -or the athletes affectionately called it the Cheetahs just because if you look at it, it almost resembles to the hind leg of a cheetah. And so it was a name that caught on early on once the foot was introduced into the prosthetic market, and that was back in '96. And so, the foot's been around for quite some time, and it is very - it's probably the closest thing I felt as an amputee sprinter and being an able-bodied sprinter before that as far as this response.

But as far as they don't like giving me more of a response than my sound side, I would say no. And there's even been some more recent studies to suggest that when you look at the comparison between a prosthetic and an able-bodied person, as far as looking at their calf, their ankle and their gastroc. And the thing we have to keep in mind is that the - Oscar and myself were running on passive prosthetics. That means it's basically a dead material. It's not like we're running on bionic products that have a motor incorporated into it or something of that nature, where we're getting mechanical power from the prosthesis.

CONAN: But isn't - doesn't it form the shape of a spring?

Mr. FRASURE: It forms the shape of a J, which that is the key to it being able to be lowered. And it is - that's where it stores energy. So it does have the capability of storing energy and releasing energy. But the thing you have to keep in mind is that the best that that can ever be is going to be 100 percent, which it is not, because there's always a certain percentage of energy loss through heat dissipation. And so let's say that it's maybe 90 to 95 percent efficient. So that gives me, as it gives back to 90 to 95 percent of the energy that I've put into it. A human ankle-foot system and gastroc can return up to 250 times the amount of force applied to the ground. And that's because we have the ability to contract the gastroc muscle.

CONAN: Well, I really don't think that excessively technical, but let's pause for just a minute. We're talking with Paralympic athlete Brian Frasure and with Robert Hersh, a member of the IAAF. That's the International Association of Athletics Federations council. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And I wanted Robert Hersh to give you the chance to respond to Brian's points and suggestions.

Mr. HERSH: Well, thank you. That's all very interesting, and I think many of the points that Brian made are relative things that I think our technical people will need to get - will need to take a look at. One of the points that I think we also need to think about - and Brian, I think the amputee community needs to think about - is whether there's a need for regulation within the community of people who are running with prosthetic devices.

I'll give you an example. We regulate all sorts of implements in the IAAF. As you may know, a javelin has very specific requirements for its size, shape, weight, contour, surface, center of gravity. And if you change any of those things, if you alter the javelin, you could change the aerodynamics and get an advantage. And the principle that has driven our thinking has been that we want our competitions to be competitions between athletes and not between manufacturers. And the same thought process could apply to prosthetic devices: Is there a point at which there could be such a competition among the manufacturers of different kinds of devices that it would change the nature of that competition?

CONAN: Brian?

Mr. FRASURE: Well, I think that - again - that largely have to do with the type of prosthetic that we're talking about. And that's why I alluded to a passive prosthetic versus a bionic prosthetic, and there certainly is technology and work being done on bionics right now. And I think that eventually, there will be prosthetics manufactured that have capability of responding with a motorized or mechanical force that would be greater than a human could do, the same as -once car were evolve. Could they go much faster than we could ever run or what not?

But the fact of the matter is, though, that most amputee runners at this time are unilateral - meaning that they're missing one leg. And so, by that respect, they're largely governed by their sound side. It would be pointless to make a prosthesis that could respond better than their sound side, because that would create asymmetry in the running gait.

CONAN: Yeah. But getting back to Robert's point, if one runner is using your Cheetah leg and another runner is using somebody else's design, isn't it - in some respects - a competition between these mechanical devices and their manufacturers and not between the athletes?

Mr. FRASURE: Well, the thing to consider in the Paralympics is that all of the athletes - all of the sprinters - are running on the same technology and they have the access to the same technology. And the way that I would compare that is - even though I know it's regulated within NASCAR - everybody's pretty even when you look at the engines and whatnot of cars racing against each other in NASCAR, because everybody has that same access to the same sorts of parts and engines.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. FRASURE: And that's the same way that it is in the Paralympics right now. Everybody has access to the same technology - whether that individual athlete chooses to use that or not is up to them.

CONAN: Finally, let me ask you, Robert Hersh…

Mr. HERSH: Yeah.

CONAN: …as you say, these are case-by-case basis as technology improves. These are questions that are going to keep coming up and coming up and coming up. This is not going away anytime soon.

Mr. HERSH: I think you're right. And let me say, Brian, I appreciate your thoughts. I think I would like to reach out to you and get further thinking from you, because we are just getting into this area and we do need all the technical advice that we can get. But I need to make it very clear again that we have not banned any particular kind of prosthetic. We haven't banned Oscar's prosthetic, and we need - do need to look at this on a case-by-case basis and make a determination of whether there's an advantage that we think is unfair.

CONAN: That's great. All right. Robert Hersh, thanks very much.

Mr. HERSH: Thank you.

CONAN: Robert Hersh, a member of the IAAF council, and he joined us from member station WRHU on Long Island in New York. Brian Frasure, thank you for your time today.

Mr. FRASURE: Thanks so much for having me.

CONAN: Brian Frasure is a Paralympic athlete, and he joined us by phone from Walter Reed Army Hospital here in Washington D.C.

When we come back, we'll go from bionic jocks to benchwarmer. Paul Shirley played for many different basketball teams in many different leagues in many different countries. He even played in Siberia. If you'd like to ask him about it, give us a call: 800-989-8255 - 800-989-TALK. I'm Neal Conan. This is NPR News.

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