Technology in Sport – Is it Cheating?


[MUSIC PLAYING] With sports engineering, we
can model a whole sport. And we can use it to push the
physical boundaries of the discipline. And if we introduce technology
into sport, is it cheating? [MUSIC PLAYING] Let’s start with the
100-meter sprint. We’ve collected data on the
average performances of the top 25 athletes in the 100-meter
sprint every year since the 1890s. You can immediately see some
pretty major spikes and steps, most obviously from the First
and Second World Wars, which worsen performance
dramatically. The first post-war Olympics were
in 1948, so we usually use that year as the
baseline for any comparisons that we do. In the 1970s, there’s a dramatic
increase in times, which was due to the
introduction of fully automated timing. Removing the reaction time of
the judges setting their stop watches going increased the time
recorded for all runners. There’s another smaller step
change in 2008 when Usain Bolt came on the scene with
his dramatic win at the Beijing Olympics. What’s interesting is that, if
we remove Bolt from our top 25 and just analyse the
other 24, the step change is still there. At these elite levels, it looks
like a standout athlete makes everyone else perform
better too. The men’s 100-meter sprint
has improved by around 5% since 1948. Over the same period, the men’s
javelin has gone some 70 meters to 85 meters,
an increase of 21%. Are we really saying that the
performance improvements of these two sports is
that different? Well, one issue we have is
that, with sprinting, our measurement is time, while, for
javelin, it’s distance. What we need is a
common metric. That shared measure is an
energy calculation. And as an example of how we
can visualise that, we can look at the women’s 100-meters
freestyle swimming event. Now this circle represents a
baseline performance in 1948. And by 2010, performance had
improved by 52% to here. Now what are the things that
contributed to that performance improvement? Well here, we have the
globalisation effects. And by that, I mean population
increase, nutrition, coaching, professionalisation. But there are other effects that
have improved performance in swimming as well. Here, we have the Olympic
games oscillation. And that occurs every four
years, so that, in an Olympic year, you see a small but
measurable performance improvement. What about technologies
that we’ve allowed? Well, in swimming, we think
about the swimsuit. And in 2000, they went from the
traditional female style and the Speedos to the longer,
full-body suits. More impressively, though,
goggles, hats, and shaving down had quite a large effect
prior to those swim suits. An effect of goggles was to
allow the swimmer to train for longer in chlorinated pools.
thereby, improving performance. Of course, there are
technologies that have not been allowed. There were the full-body
swimsuits in 2008 that had polyurethane panels
down the sides. And by 2009, the whole body was
covered in polyurethane. And what that did was that
reduced the skin friction across the body. It pulled the body in and
reduced the cross sectional area of the body presented
to the water. And that reduced hydrodynamic
drag. The other thing we’ve noticed in
swimming is the transition between hand timing and fully
automated timing, something we’ve seen in other sports. So with these statistics and
with this methodology, we can look at the effect of different
factors on sport. And one thing we’ve noticed is
how globalisation has started to reach its limits. The Industrial Revolution
has had its impact. Most of the improvements we’re
seeing in sport today are smaller in nature and
due to technology. [MUSIC PLAYING] We started our journey with the
birth of modern sport and its development, hand-in-hand,
with technology. But performances are starting
to plateau. And even with the occasional
Usain Bolt mixing things up, world records are going
to become rare in some of our sports. Now athletes don’t like that,
audiences don’t like that, and the ruling bodies
don’t like that. Sports engineering will hold the
balance between the world of the possible, that’s Newton’s
laws, and the world of the allowed, that’s
the rules of sport. Now the rules of sport are
completely arbitrary. They’re steeped in tradition,
but they do change. There were 300 ancient
Olympic games lasting over 1,200 years. And in that time, we went from
the sprint to chariot racing. So the science and engineering
we’re learning with today’s sports will be used to develop
those sports that we’ll see in the 300th modern Olympic games
1,000 years from now. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Comments 12

  • First

  • This is his last video :(, it would be sad to know that rules are changing just to allow records to be broken, but some technological advances cant be stopped

  • This series has been quite disappointing, not much about actual physics and engineering.

  • Yes,

  • Women weren't even swimming in 1948

  • vi esa mierda pa un examen de ingles sino aca ni Vengo hhahahahah =D

  • mate im a athlete in swimming but with the prosthesis… they try to make them all equal.

  • very usefull thanks

  • Cool video!

  • To be totally fair one should swim in the nude.

  • See from 5:05 the reason why doping will not stop. We will only be playing "Police and Thief". Genetics? Caster us a woman with high testosterone. We now want her to dope … to lower her genetic advantage. Should we have "banned" Bolt for being too tall with fast twitch muscle. On average he used 2-3 fewer strides than others. Less ATP used combined with a longer stride. How do we handle all this. I don't know.

  • When the increase in sporting achievements diminish (due to the human body reaching its peak performance), it becomes a challenge to the athletes, audience and officials because huge amounts of interest will be lost. Should we then allow technology in sport? It would defiantly delay the inevitable fact of the human body reaching its peak performance, it could also put many people at a disadvantage that couldn't afford all these enhancements.

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