Technology legal, is it?


RECORDS are made to be broken, and a lot of them were broken in athletics at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics. There’s an ongoing discussion whether it was the track or was it the shoes?

According to, “A fast track and new developments in running shoe design have seen a number of records broken at the Tokyo Olympics, but a leading sports scientist has warned athletes that they could be entering into a “Faustian bargain.”

Norway’s Karsten Warholm and the USA’s Sidney McLaughlin posted new world record times—Warholm in the men’s 400-m hurdles and Mclaughlin in the women’s version of the event.

Athletes have said that the track used in Tokyo was fast while others point to the shoes, the “super spikes” developed by Nike, which, some quarters are saying, gives the athlete an advantage.

Let’s look into the specifics of the shoe. continues, “The shoes feature a stiff sole plate and an air pocket under the ball of the foot, as well as using a new kind of foam which is softer, returns more energy and is very lightweight,” said Geoff Burns, a sports scientist at the University of Michigan.

I remember when the adidas Predator football cleats first came out, there were concerns about the boot as stated in a 2017 article on, “Back in 1994, adidas appeared to have revolutionized football. The ‘Predator,’ a bizarre-looking boot that later became synonymous with the likes of Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero, promised better control, harder shots and improved swerve.

“And these weren’t just the usual buzzwords stuck on new shoes. Adorned with a conspicuous section of rubber spikes around the toe area, the Predator really was different.

“It even had official-sounding ‘scientific tests’ to back it up. So geometrically favorable were these boots, goalkeepers—the prey, presumably—were warned they might as well give up. (Or was the ball the prey? Never figured that one out.)”

In a 2009 New York Times article, Karen Crouse wrote, “In an effort to clean up its sport, the international governing body of swimming will require its athletes to show more skin. By an overwhelming vote Friday at its general congress, FINA officials decided to ban the high-tech swimsuits that have been likened to doping on a hanger.

“The ban does not start until 2010, but the polyurethane-based swimsuit era that the swimwear giant Speedo introduced in the lead-up to [last year’s] Beijing Olympics will effectively be ushered out, presumably with a bang, at the swimming world championships that start here Sunday.

“In the 17 months since the LZR Racer hit the market and spawned a host of imitators, more than 130 world records have fallen, including seven (in eight events) by Michael Phelps during the Beijing Olympics.

“Jaked, an Italian-based manufacturer, is one of nearly two dozen companies that dived into the swimsuit race. Its 01 model has fewer panels and seams and more polyurethane than Speedo’s high-tech offering.

“There were concerns that swimsuit technology was encroaching on the sport’s integrity as far back as 2000 when full-body suits were introduced, replacing men’s lycra briefs and women’s lycra one pieces.”

Back to athletics, the technology that the sports brand giant used in road running has made its way to track and field shoes as well.

Warholm took a swipe at his American rival Rai Benjamin’s shoe by saying, “He had his things in between his shoes, which I hate by the way,” said Warholm, who wears Puma spikes that have been developed with the help of racing car manufacturer Mercedes.

“If you want cushioning, you can put a mattress there, but if you put a trampoline there, I think it’s bullsh*t and I think it takes credibility away from our sport,” Warholm said.

Benjamin said it’s the track not the shoe, “People say it’s the track…it’s the shoes. I would wear different shoes and still run fast, it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “There’s some efficiency in the shoe, don’t get me wrong, and it’s nice to have a good track.”

Scientist Dr. Michael Burns from the University of Michigan said that all this shoe technology is not mechanical doping because it is legal. “It’s not mechanical doping in the sense that all of these shoes are legal,” he said. “They’re not cheating.”

As for the track, “The surface is supplied by Italian manufacturer Mondo, which said its main objective is to maximize the speed of athletes and improve their performance.”

According to World Athletics and Mondo, more than 280 world records have been established on the company’s tracks prior to the Tokyo Olympics.

If the track is working in the way that Mondo says it does, it operates on the same principle as the Nike spikes, according to Burns. “It gives more rebound to the athletes each step,” he said.”

In the end, no matter what technology you’re wearing or whether you’re running on a fast or slow track, as long as you’re not cheating, doping or taking any performance enhancing drugs and you’ve trained long and hard, you should be able to compete with the world’s best.

As mentioned by Dr. Burns earlier, technology is legal.

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