A competitor at the 2012 London Summer Olympics will be running on carbon fiber blades attached to his amputated legs. Double amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa is expected to compete in the Olympic 400 meter race.
The case of Pistorius serves to underscore the growing importance of technology and, specifically, mechanical engineering in sports. For Pistorius, technology has given him a chance to compete. Other Olympic athletes look to technology to gain that extra one-hundredth of a second that is the difference between a gold medal (and endorsements) and failure.
Better to rely on technology than chemicals.
The audio link below includes an interview with Phillippa Oldham who oversees manufacturing at the U.K.’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The discussion centers on sports engineering advances and whether they provide competitors with an unfair advantage:
To amplify Junko's comment, where is the distinction between chemicals and mechanicals as performance-enhancing technologies? Why is one considered OK and the other not?
Pistorius' blade technology is performance enhancing because he otherwise wouldn't be able to perform at this level.
To take @Barry.Moss' comment further, perhaps there should be two tracks for athletes: technologically enhanced and not. And eventually consumers will decide whether, like McDonald's v. Farmer's Market fare, which we prefer.
I think that it is a great step ahead and thanks to technology that Oscar Pistorius is motivating a new crop of athletes but we should keep a check on the whether such technologies do not put anyone at unnecessary advantage.
In the extreme, surgical alterations and advanced prosthetic could come to dominate the game. Imagine a future where a "six million dollar" bionic man could complete. It's not hard to conceive of a time where technology trumps the best trained natural body.
Neither technology nor chemicals supported the competitors in the past; at least it wasn't so prevalent. It was supposed to be all about "fun and games" and may the best sports person win. It is shameful how commercialized and "do anything to win" is guiding today's sports, whether in the Olympics or on the local basketball court. It sure ain't your father's Olympics anymore: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/26/12932649-millionaire-medalists-will-london-2012-remain-true-to-olympic-spirit?lite
Not in future, they are using this right now. Look at the swimsuits or shoes. Even if the technical upgrades will be banned there are other possibilities.
I heard that cyclists take some kind of chirurgical operations to straighten the blood veins for better oxygen transportation for muscles. I believe in future the number of possible body modification will be bigger.
I think it's not only the technology (carbon-fiber legs), but also the tremendous self-confidence or inner strength, whatever you may call it as, has made it possible for Oscar Pistorius to overcome the challenges.
Taking advantage of technologies in sports is good, only if, it is affordable and available to all participants around the world...otherwise it doesn't make sense.
Thanks for sharing the audio link! It was a great discussion and enjoyed learning many new technology trends in the sports.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.