Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Technology to beat World/Olympic records...but only for swimmers

The Speedo LZR Racer Suit is a ultra-lightweight and water-repellent swimming suit that gives shark-like swimming capabilities to athletes. It reduces the drag effect and skin resistance of the swimmer's body, allowing him/her to gain those milliseconds that could make a difference when beating World/Olympic records.

An in fact, this swimsuit really gives athletes that extra boost they need. 36 of the 39 world records that were beaten since last February were achieved by athletes with this swimsuit from Speedo. This clearly states that an athlete with this particular swimsuit has an advantage over other athletes.

Doesn't this sends out the wrong message to the sporting community? At this rate, world records will only be beaten by the athletes that are lucky enough to be sponsored by these companies.

But, even though some controversy exists around this issue, nothing is done to stop swimmers from using the special-purposed suits.

This kind of reminds me of a similar situation that had a completely different outcome. Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee paralympic runner that is only able to run through the use of a prosthetic device (a set of carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs), wanted to participate in the able-bodied competitions (for people with no handicaps or disabilities). 

However, his artificial legs generated claims that he had an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. And because the rules clearly state that an athlete using a device cannot have an "advantage over another athlete not using such a device", he was ruled ineligible for competitions.

I don't think this decision was wrong but some questions remain: why was this particular athlete unable to participate in a competition? Why isn't the same rule applied to swimmers? Shouldn't all enhancing devices be forbidden from sporting competitions? Or at least shouldn't ALL athletes be given the opportunity to use the same equipment so as to really boost the competition level?

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