Former Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson is running amok with his mouth these days. First he said that African Americans are strong athletes because they are descendants of slaves and have a genetic advantage. He followed up that unfounded claim with a dose of total insensitivity.
The world-record holder in the 400 meter race said South African sprinter and double amputee Oscar Pistorius should not be allowed to participate in the Olympics. Before he shot down Pistorius, Johnson prefaced his venom by calling the running “a friend.”
“I consider Oscar a friend of mine, but he knows I am against him running,” Johnson told the London Telegraph. “Because this is not about Oscar; it’s not about him as an individual. It is about the rules you will make and put in place for the sport which will apply to anyone, and not just Oscar.”
Pistorius, also known as “The Blade Runner,” has garnered a lot of attention since being approved to compete in the London Games. The South African sprinter lost the lower part of his legs as a child and uses blade-like prosthetic limbs when he competes on the track.
Johnson isn’t the first to broach the subject of whether a disabled runner whose limbs have been rebuilt with modern technology be allowed to compete with able-bodied athletes? But Johnson was far from eloquent in explaining his position.
Meanwhile, Pistorius finished second in a 400-meter race in Italy on Tuesday, his final tuneup for Olympics. He clocked 46.56 seconds – well off the personal best of 45.07 he ran at the same meet last year. Calvin Smith of the United States won in 45.52.
“My time wasn’t among the best. But I’m good physically and mentally,” Pistorius said. “I’ve used a lot of energy in these past few days, both in training and with the media because of my participation in the Olympics. The race went well, I felt fine, I just lost a bit of acceleration halfway through.”
Pistorius will become the first amputee track athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by South Africa. He’s set to compete in the individual 400 and the 4×400 relay, although the team hasn’t decided which leg he will run.