Friday, August 20, 2010

The Big Fail: Amputee Distance Record Keeping

"Truth is the mother of hatred."
 - Decimius Magnus Ausonius (ca. 310–395)


Recently Ossur, the large orthopeadic/prosthetic company headquartered in Iceland, posted on Facebook about an upcoming race for Richard Whitehead, the bilateral above knee amputee distance runner who has run some amazing times:

"Ossur  Team Össur member Richard Whitehead will be one of many to compete in this weekend's Reykjavik Marathon. Richard is a bilateral above-knee amputee and the world record holder in marathon with a time of 2:56...beat that!"

What is unfortunate is Ossur either did not know, which I want to believe, or chose not to reveal that there are no official world records for amputee distance runners. I think they simply did not know when I asked them about this on Facebook, as they used Richard Whitehead's own website and an on-line article that parrots the same line as their basis of fact. I posted the link to the IPC site where clearly no records exist but Ossur did not retract the claim.

I was violently ad hominem and profanely attacked on the message thread with no intervention by Ossur to set the story straight as I write this post.


Anyone who has been following me or my blog knows I admire the times amputees have set, from Richard Whitehead to Rick Ball to Amy Palmiero-Winters on down the line. When I saw these statements of "world records" I started looking for them, as I was interested in the prior record holders, the progression of times, and if as a masters runner if any might be within my reach.

I did extensive research with the IPC, IWAS, USAT&F, BlazeSports, DS/USA, US Paralympics, and Runners World; I asked many amputee athletes and coaches including Scott Rigsby, Kelly Luckett, Brian Frasure, and others. I came to the realization no official body kept these records for distance events. 

The records are kept here.

Here is what happens when an amputee distance world record is claimed: Let's say Rudy Tolson-Garcia tomorrow runs a 2:49 marathon. Doesn't matter where. By current amputee protocol, he could claim the world record from Richard Whitehead, simple as that. No organization would verify it like the IPC or the IAAF.

Athletics Canada stated the plain facts here, bless them for being honest and truthful:

"Please be aware that we do not promote Rick Ball’s times as a “World Record” but rather as a world leading time.  World Records can only be achieved at IPC sanctioned events but (sic) IPC-licensed athletes."

Let me repeat that last sentence:

"World Records can only be achieved at IPC sanctioned events but (sic) IPC-licensed athletes."

Perhaps this mini-tempest will result in the records being kept. Perhaps I could have handled it is not like, though, I haven't brought this subject up before and others could have corrected this serious "mistake." This isn't about feeling good or sitting around a campfire singing "Kumbaya." I am NOT attacking my fellow amputees, never have and never will.

I wrote clearly what needs to be done here.

Ossur, you can help. These times can be accurately called "World Leading" or "Unofficial Record" or perhaps, if/when the IPC is going to keep the records, a "pending World Record." It is not, however, a world record.


In closing, I think it is unfortunate that it was perceived and misunderstood that I was somehow attacking Richard Whitehead personally. Nothing could be further from the truth. No, but I am saying it is wrong for him or others to claim records that simply do not exist. I doubt that will be realized unless Ossur and others step up.

The records need to be kept for all time and for all to see. Those who set the records yesterday, today, and tomorrow should receive the recognition of an amazing accomplishment.

Let's make this right.


8/28/2010 Update: Ossur still has not addressed this issue on Facebook. Their silence in allowing the claim to stand and for others to demean my character is something I find highly unfortunate. Silence does not absolve guilt, it confirms it.

9/1/2010 Update: Richard Whitehead (and others) still claims World Records although the IPC does not currently recognize any of these records. This is wrong. As an amputee, I feel a dark injustice is being perpetrated here. When you know something is not true and claim otherwise, you move into the realm of the lie. Why?

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