Written by NiMechE Press

  • June 12, 2021
  • 0

Science and technology have become more involved in every facet of our lives over the years and sports haven’t been left behind. Fans would immediately think about VAR and Hawk-Eye when technology is mentioned as regards sport. While there were initial debates about the necessity of these technologies and how they affect the gameplay in various sports, they have become widely accepted and have greatly improved the quality of decision making.

My favourite example of science influencing sports is Dick Fosbury. The civil engineering student realized that, in high jump, approaching the bar back-first with a curved spine meant that your center of gravity could be below the bar while you’re above it. This meant that he could jump higher than ordinarily possible as older techniques like the scissors needed jumpers to lift their center of gravity over the bar. He went on to win gold in the high jump at the 1968 Olympics. The technique became known as the Fosbury flop after his last name and not his first name for good reason. It is almost exclusively used in the high jump today.

Nutrition and supplements have also greatly improved over the years contributing enormously to the marked performance improvements in sports across generations. Furthermore, sports physiology has also improved to help reduce injuries due to sporting activities and quicken recovery times. All these are unequivocally positive additions but in recent years, sporting apparels have blurred the lines of what is permissible.

In 2008, Speedo launched a swimsuit that saw its wearers win 98% of the medals at the Beijing Olympics. By 2009, a staggering 93 world records had been broken by swimmers wearing the suit. Due to contract-related issues, not all swimmers could wear the brand therefore resulting in an unfair advantage. It was considered technological doping and subsequently banned by the regulatory body for competitive swimming.

In 2019, Nike released a prototype shoe that was worn by a certain Eulid Kipchoge on the road to being the first person to break two hours in the marathon. The shoes were also subsequently banned along with a resulting stricter regulation for athletic shoes. Every other athletic shoe on their new line were just on the brink of what is permissible by new regulations. It becomes immediately clear that although technology has positively affected sports, there can be drawbacks.

These ultimately left me wondering if human performance has truly gotten better in the last half-century or we just have access to better equipment, implements, apparels and medicine. I never want to be left wondering if it’s a win for athleticism or for science and technology. How should technology be regulated in the world of sports? How far is too far?

Egbeyemi Bowofoluwa

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