Should Techno-Doping Be Accepted in Sports?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
[Editor’s Note: Here we define techno-doping as a technological augmentation that confers an advantage to the athlete, be it a specially designed shoe, a bike motor, or limb protheses that specifically offers an advantage over other athletes in the same competition.]
PCMag, in an undated encyclopedia entry, “techno-doping,” accessed on Apr. 20, 2021 and available at pcmag.com, stated:
“(TECHNOlogy-DOPING) Using technology to increase the physical attributes of a human being. The term was coined for athletes such as Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete, whose J-shaped, carbon fiber artificial legs enabled him to set Paralympic sprinting records. Pistorius, then 21 and a double amputee since infancy, asked to qualify for the Beijing 2008 Olympics but was banned that January by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF). They said his unique prosthetic blades gave him a competitive edge. In May 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that he could compete if he qualified; however, in July, he fell less than a second short of the 45.55 second qualifying time to run 400 meters.”
Gregor Wolbring, PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, in a May 10, 2012 abstract for the article, “Paralympians Outperforming Olympians: An Increasing Challenge for Olympism and the Paralympic and Olympic Movement,” available at tandfonline.com, stated:
“Non-therapeutic performance enhancement in sport is a contentious issue for some time but the issue of therapeutic enhancements has only recently entered the sport vernacular. The purpose of therapeutic assistive devices so far is widely seen as lifting as impaired perceived people back to species-typical norms. However, ‘therapeutic’ body devices developed to mimic species-typical body structures and expected body functioning, as a side effect, increasingly allow the wearer to outperform the species-typical body in various functions. Unsurprisingly, then, this brings the prospect of people labelled as impaired outperforming the so called non-impaired person in general and the paralympic athlete outperforming Olympic athletes. The ‘cheetah’ prosthetic legs worn by the South African Paralympic amputee Oscar Pistorius are one example of a ‘therapeutic’ device that might in the future outperform the species-typical body. Although it does not yet, it has already been labelled as a techno doping device. Others that already outperform are wheelchairs; however, they are rather invisible in the dispute around therapeutic enhancements and sport.”May 10, 2012
Alex Pearlman, journalist and bioethicist, in a Mar. 11, 2021 article, “The Case for More Doping in the Olympics,” available at neo.life, stated:
“Oscar Pistorius’s cheetah-inspired running blades allowed him to use 25 percent less energy than non-disabled athletes use when running at the same speed. Despite the fact that he also faced disadvantages other runners didn’t (such as slipping in a drizzle), Pistorious was initially banned from competition in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Pistorius’s blades were considered ‘techno-doping,’ and agency officials at World Athletics (then known as IAAF) ruled that they undermined the fairness of the competition. Though he later won an appeal to overturn the ban, he failed to qualify. He did, however, qualify and compete in the 2012 Olympics.
That was the exception, however. In a similar case, German long jumper Markus Rehm, who had one leg amputated below the knee and uses a running blade, has competed with world-class track athletes in the past. But he has not been allowed to compete at the Olympics and was banned from the 2016 Rio Games…
Allowing open technological enhancements and doping and accepting them for their own sake could make the competition about the technology and pushing the limits of human achievement and could actually level the playing field. By allowing enhanced events, competitions would be inclusive and events would pit like technologies and equally enhanced technologies against each other, not same-abled people.”Mar. 11, 2021
Zoltan Istvan, author, in a Sep. 13, 2019 article, “The Brave New World of Sports,” available at nytimes.com, stated:
“Cyborg games may spur the sporting industry and attract new viewers. Last year I saw the inventor Keahi Seymour run jaw-droppingly fast at about 25 miles per hour, wearing 18-inch high custom boots. Over 30 years, Mr. Seymour improved his bionic boots to allow him to run nearly the same speed as the Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt…
When it’s allowed, people don’t find the use of technology in sports controversial. It’s drug use by athletes that causes the greatest contention…
I wonder whether the sporting industry might create some new competitions where — just like technology — performance-enhancing drugs are encouraged. Innovations like the new oxygen-infused injection, which might one day allow humans to hold their breath for 15 to 30 minutes, could allow competitive free divers to reach new depths, showing just how far the human body can go.
Critics will complain that the human body was not designed to compete using enhancements and that doing so violates the code given to us by the ancient Greeks and their first Olympics Games, where arete, or excellence and moral virtue, was cherished. As a longtime competitive athlete, I appreciate the sportsmanship angle; but I also think that in the 21st century we can develop both the drugs and the technology to see humans compete in new sporting events that are even more exciting than their predecessors.”Sep. 13, 2019
Sebastian Anthony, Editor of Ars Technica UK, in a July 11, 2017 article, “Evolution Can Only Take Us so Far: In Sports, Technology Is the Future,” available at arstechnica.com, stated:
“I’d like to propose a thought experiment: what would happen to competitive sports if their technological rules and regulations were almost completely gutted? What if golfers could use clubs shaped by evolutionary algorithms and fashioned out of exotic materials? What if Formula 1 teams could design their own engines from scratch, with their choice of displacement, fuel, and powertrain?
What if footballers could use special boots with a spring mechanism that stores kinetic energy in a spring and then releases it when the ball is struck—or more dramatically, how about a special set of spectacles that provide real-time shot advice and predicted ball trajectory overlays?
To keep things fair, you could still have a budget cap, or a league could have a central pool of money that it divvies out to the teams.
In short, what if professional sports exemplified science, technology, and engineering in addition to biological human performance?”July 11, 2017
Richard van Hooijdonk, futurist, in a June 13, 2017 blog post, “4 Ways in which Technological Innovation Enhances Athletic Performance,” available at blog.richardvanhooijdonk.com, stated:
“In an age where athletes have access to increasingly sophisticated technology and more advanced training techniques than ever before, sport is becoming an entirely new ballgame. While the true essence of sport still lies in the talent and perseverance of athletes, it is often no longer sufficient. Modern technologies can help them up their game…
The way technology has impacted sport is incredible. In today’s connected world, the use of wearable technology, big data analytics, social media and sensor technology have revolutionised the way sports are played, analysed and improved. Through various modern advances and apps, pro athletes can gain greater insight into their performance, improve training methods and elevate their skills.”June 13, 2017
Santosh Vikram Singh, LLB, partner, and Aditya Shankar, LLB, legal intern, both at Fox Mandal & Associates, in a Jan. 4, 2021 article, “‘Technological Doping’: A Threat To Equity In Sports,” available at lexology.com, stated:
“Athletes thrive on success and are often willing to go an extra mile to achieve on-field success. The influx of technological advancements in our daily life has naturally found its way onto the sports field and this has resulted in a race to look for the best sports equipment/gears and technology hence shifting the focus from physiological ability…
There is a thin line between technological advancements and technological doping in sports. ‘Advancement’ is a natural phenomenon but its utilization to gain an unfair advantage is what converts it into ‘doping’. In absence of any defined Rules, there exists an opportunity for some to find ways to gain that advantage over others by technological means. Further, the price and availability of such hi-tech equipment and gears would for sure deprive many able but financially weak athletes. Another point to ponder is– whether such technology dilutes human effort and has a decisive effect on the performance or whether it would create some sort of unrealistic targets and records.
Hence, fairness in sports can only be achieved if such technology is banned, or if allowed, made available to all at a reasonable price. Technological advancements in sports are inevitable and necessary but to avoid such technology from being used to gain an unfair advantage in the sport, equity is to be maintained by ensuring equal and reasonable access for all athletes.”Jan. 4, 2021
Bryce Dyer, PhD, Deputy Head Of Department Design and Engineering at Bournemouth University, in a 2020 article, “A Pragmatic Approach to Resolving Technological Unfairness: the Case of Nike’s Vaporfly and Alphafly Running Footwear,” available at sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.com, stated:
“Technology is often introduced into sport to facilitate it or to improve human performance within it. On occasion, some forms of novel technology require regulation or prevention entirely to ensure that a sport remains fair and accessible. Recently, the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly shoes have received some concerns over their appropriateness for use in competitive distance running…
The Nike Vaporfly/Alphafly shoes do push the perceived acceptability of running shoes to the limits of the current sports regulations. However, the alleged gains have not manifested themselves to a level that could be considered excessive when reviewing historical performances or when evaluated against a set of well-cited criteria. The sport will need to adopt a stance of ongoing vigilance as such technologies continue to develop or be optimised in the future.”2020
Hugh Herr, as quoted by Teresa Carey in a Feb. 25, 2020 interview, “Run Faster, Think Better: Hugh Herr on the Future of Bionics,” available at freethink.com, stated:
“There’s this huge effort to not expose athletes to technology in the Olympics. But for a person with an unusual body — like a missing limb or arm, or paralysis, or whatever it may be — it would be wonderful if we lived in a society where they were able to participate in sporting events such as the Olympics. So how might that be possible?
We need to have technology that does not augment nor is a disability — that captures the innate physicality, athleticism of the individual — which is very, very hard (to create) but will be possible in the future of technology. Technology is becoming more and more personalized. We need to leave the world of small, medium and large, the world of the average human, and enter in a world where your bra, your shoes, your hat, the implants inside your body — they’re all yours, and no one else can use them because they reflect your individuality. That’s where we’re going in design.”Feb. 25, 2020
Chris Lavey, LLM, Solicitor-Advocate in the Sports Group at Bird & Bird LLP, in a Feb. 12, 2018 article, “Technology Changing Sport: Mechanical Doping,” available at mediawrites.law, stated:
“In 2015, the UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] introduced a new regulation to specifically prohibit ‘technological fraud’ as an infringement of Article 1.3.010…
The 2015 amendments (and the 2017 amendments, see below) highlight the need for sporting regulators to respond to challenges of new technology quickly and ensure that their regulations are not only suitably broadly drafted, but also deal with specific circumstances and are properly equipped to deal with the challenges. Sporting regulations should be clear for participants to understand and specific offences in regulations are generally less prone to challenge during a legal process. Regulations that detail specific offences or prohibitions should be complementary to general regulations… particularly where the subject matter is technical in nature…
Effective testing and enforcement of the regulations is critical to managing the impact of new technologies in sports equipment. Publicity, effective testing and strong sanctions help to deter the conduct in question and indicate to fans and to compliant athletes that the sport’s governing body is serious about protecting its sport from potential risks that the new technology may bring.”Feb. 12, 2018 article