Technology has given too much of an advantage in athletics

When people celebrate a swimmer’s broken world record or erupt in cheers at a one-handed end zone catch, they must remember that sometimes, looks can be deceiving.

While it surely took these athletes years of hard work to get to this point, they likely had a little help from technology along the way. To ensure the sport’s integrity and make sports financially manageable for more people, technology in sports should be mitigated or banned as much as possible. New technology should also be tested for performance-enhancing capabilities before being legalized for competition.

At big swim meets, the vast majority of pro and high school swimmers wear tech suits. These water repellent swimsuits often cost upwards of $400. Swimming World Magazine said they squeeze certain muscle groups to optimize performance and help swimmers keep a streamlined position in the water. They are extremely tight, often taking around 10-20 mins to put on, and they’re proven to increase a swimmer’s speed by about a second every four laps, according to Swimming World Magazine.

It’s a big issue that the “best” sports gear has always been known to cost more, whether that be for tech suits, baseball gloves and bats, golf clubs or cleats. Financially disadvantaged athletes often don’t stand a chance.

Tech suits are especially costly since they only work properly for six to eight races and can easily rip before this threshold; however, athletes have no choice but to wear them if they want to be competitive.

Preserving the sport’s integrity is also a big factor. According to Arizona State University’s sports student newspaper Arizona Preps 365, 130 swimming world records were broken in 17 months after the Speedo LZR racer—a full body tech suit—was released in 2008. FINA banned this suit from competition in 2010, but the question still looms in the air about where sports should draw the line with technology.

Swimming is not the only sport where broken world records have suspiciously correlated with the release of new sports attire. According to Global Health and Pharma news, after Nike released carbon fiber plate technology for their running shoes about 10 years ago, all running world records were broken. When concerns arose that athletes sponsored by Nike were unfairly advantaged in the Olympics, World Athletics set a new rule that shoe sole thickness could not be over 40mm.

It’s hard to regulate technology when the damage has already been done: 130 records have been broken with a now illegal suit, and all running world records were broken after Nike’s release of carbon fiber plates. Since tech companies will constantly be competing to work around current regulations, new technology cannot be anticipated. This makes lots of technology impossible to regulate, especially since regulations can only be made after records have been broken that may never be able to be broken again using solely human capabilities. To combat this problem, strict and specific regulations regarding sports technologies should be made early on, and new products need to be tested for performance enhancing capabilities before being legalized in national and international sporting events.

Along with swimming and running, football gloves have also changed the human threshold for performance. According to the New York Times, in 1999 polymer for a new generation of football gloves was proven to be about 20% stickier than human hands. These gloves are still legal, and they’re used today in both pro and youth games.

The gloves make what used to be near impossible catches entirely possible, and they forever changed the football world after their release.

With regulation organizations being inevitably late to the game for technology regulation, integrity of sports is also a big question here. Sports are the ultimate measure of human physical achievement, pushing humans beyond their limits to accomplish feats previously unheard of. If technology is the only thing making those feats possible, there will soon be no way to quantify human achievement in sports anymore.

Technology has also changed the mindset of players, too. Instead of players trying to win by emptying their pockets for the latest new equipment, they should be trying to win by improving physically and mentally.

By eliminating new and expensive technology in sports as much as possible and by testing technology before it’s legalized, we can take a huge step towards making sports more fair to everyone and returning the integrity of these games. From focusing technology efforts to things like cancer research instead of water repellent fabric, we can finally return sports to what they used to be: two teams battling it out in a fair game of brains and brawn.

The gloves make what used to be near impossible catches entirely possible, and they forever changed the football world after their release.

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Annabel Long
Annabel Long is a junior at Bexley High School and is a staff reporter for the Torch student newspaper. Outside of the Torch, she swims and plays lacrosse for the high school. She participates in improv and theatre productions at the high school as well.