Michael Laws, with whom I've always got on well, I have to say, has nevertheless become more and more odd over the past couple of years. Indeed, he has come to display the characteristics we associate with those we describe as fruitloops.

I know the game - and I played it well on radio for a very long time - of walking the line of shock without crossing it too much so as to be made to disappear.

But he cannot be allowed to get away with those remarks about Paralympian sport. I am patron of Paralympics New Zealand and have been part of the Paralympic movement, or the Paralympic Family, as we like to call it, for a long time.

I've been contacted by my Paralympian friends all week. They are deeply hurt.

Seeing Paralympic sport for the first time at Arnhem, in Holland, in the summer of 1980, changed my life.

I saw in that fortnight impossible bravery and courage, not just from the New Zealanders but from people from all round the world. Some of the finest, most inspirational men and women I have ever known have been Paralympians.

But Michael Laws thinks Paralympic sport is ludicrous.

No, Michael, it's not ludicrous. It's actually brilliant.

It's brilliant that it exists and it is genuinely brilliant to see.

In Christchurch this summer, at the Paralympic World Championships (as opposed to the Paralympic Games themselves), those of us there watched the brilliant South African Oscar Pistorius run on his carbon-fibre plates.

Pistorius is one second slower over 100m than Usain Bolt. Bolt, of course, does not have to endure the pain of the impact on the point where the prostheses meet the flesh. But Paralympians will never tell you about that because Paralympians, in my experience, rarely complain.

Pistorius has a motto. "You are not disabled by your disabilities, you are able by your abilities."

No, Michael. Paralympics is not ludicrous. Going out to Howick and shagging a P addict on bail who's called you up on the radio programme is ludicrous. Having the cops come round to your home because you're being beaten up by your wife is ludicrous.

Fighting desperately over an "H" in the name of a town is ludicrous.

I wanted to cry when I read Michael Laws' comments. After the decades of struggle by Paralympics to be recognised not as some kind of therapy for cripples, but as genuine sport performed with dedication by physically impaired people, we get an ignorant comment from an intelligent broadcaster who should know better.

For years, television, radio and newspaper sports departments, staffed by conservative dyed-in-the-wool male sports "purists", would not accept that Paralympic sport was actually sport.

When I started at TVNZ, if they covered a Paralympic event it was presented as the "kicker", the charming little human piece you put in a bulletin after the weather and before the sign-off. One fine Paralympian once described this way of presenting their sport as, "Oh look, some cripples having a day out!"

Men and woman around the world now take pride in the highly competitive nature of Paralympic sport. It is serious stuff.

When I saw Duane Kale in Christchurch at the World Champs last month - Duane will be Chef de Mission of the New Zealand team at the Paralympics in London next year - I saw a sports manager as serious about his job as any I have ever known.

Duane won four gold medals and a silver in Atlanta in 1996. When I see my quadriplegic friend Grant Sharman coach the Wheel Blacks, as he did for so long, I see someone who thinks as strategically and as cunningly as any coach I ever knew.

Grant is also an internationally regarded mouth- and foot-painter. He taught himself to do it after the high school rugby injury broke his neck.

What does a man or a woman athlete with a physical impairment have to do to be taken seriously? You might be born with a physical impairment. Is that your fault?

You may have a terrible road accident injury or break your neck diving; does that mean you are to be written off, that your endeavours thereafter are second-class?

Take someone who endures a spinal injury. First you lie there for months on end coming to terms with the fact that you will not walk again. Then you learn the drudgery of pushing a wheelchair round. Try that for more than five minutes, Michael.

Then what about your spirit? How do you stop that dying? How do keep that alive?

How will you continue to laugh? And your friends. How many of them will still be there after a few months? And your girlfriend? How long will she stay around? Try showing up in Howick, Michael, lugging the wheelchair out of the car.

So many Paralympians have experienced this journey. They make the best of what God has delivered them, which is all any of us can and should do in our lives.

Paralympians are not people who resigned themselves to uselessness. They may well have been active, talented sportsmen before their injury, but many were not.

They find their way to the Paralympic family and they train their guts out. Believe me, no one makes it to the Paralympics unless they are the best of the best. And every day there is the hassle of getting up, perhaps getting through the spasms, getting into the chair, getting to the toilet, getting clean and getting into the day. Paralympians are people who never gave up.

Paralympians are different from able-bodied sports people, that is true. But the runner is different from the shot-putter and the shot-putter is different from the soccer player. What about it? The runner does not say the shot-putter is not a sportsman.

Paralympic sport is brilliant to watch. You have the human component of course; your heart soars to see the triumph of the human spirit over serious adversity, but you have sport nevertheless that is simply a first-class watch. Who will cross the line first?

It is a thrill as old as time. It matters not a screaming jot whether a person is running on legs, on carbon- fibre feet or pushing a chair.

I have a picture in my mind from the Olympic Pool at Barcelona during the 1992 Paralympics. It has stayed with me forever. A young woman lifts herself out of the pool. She levers herself out, really.

She has little stumps for legs with little feet and little toes. She has only one arm and it is a stump too, with a little hand and little fingers. I suppose thalidomide might have been involved. She is truly, stunningly beautiful. She has won her event. Her radiant smile I will never forget.

Words matter, Michael. Words are the most powerful weapon a human being has. Words can build up, they can save a soul, they can make someone feel love, they can cheer the down-trodden and the sad and those who lack purpose.

They can lift the heart and restore the spirit. But they can destroy too, and hurt, and demean those who do their very best to achieve against the odds to become talented, winning sportsmen and women.

A radio man needs to know this if he is ever to rate above 2 per cent.

Oscar Pistorius may yet compete on his carbon-fibre feet in the 100m and 200m at the London Olympics. And, of course, we have our own Sophie Pascoe, 18 and already a paralympic champion. In Christchurch, at QEII Park where the World Champs were, Sophie was taking it to the able-bodied swimmers in the Canterbury championships.

The struggle for recognition has been too hard and too long for too many fine people in too many countries for Paralympians to have to take this from Michael Laws.