High-tech shoes put Bolt’s records at risk of being spiked, but it’s better than time-reducing drugs

Is Usain Bolt right to be concerned about the new generation of high-tech shoes that could help others challenge his world records in time, given that he thinks he would have certainly run below 9.5 seconds if he had had access to the same technology?

No, despite the shoes allowing American Noah Lyles to close in on Usain Bolt’s 200m world record of 19.19 in 2022 with a time of 19.31, the third fastest 200m ever.

With World Athletics in August 2020 addressing the new shoe technology controversy by allowing up to 40mm heel thickness in road running shoes and 25mm in distance running spikes, good luck to any runner who can break any world record.

Since 2016, when new technology was introduced to road running in 2016, the lists of top 50 male and female marathon runners have rapidly improved by 2%, with Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge clocking a time of 1:59: 40.2 in 2019, although this is an unofficial record. due to non-compliance with competition rules regarding pace, fluids and openness to all rivals.

Ben Johnson. (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)

With new technology applied to track spikes since 2019, world records have since been set in the 5000m and 10000m (men and women), 400m hurdles (men and women) and 100m hurdles (women).

At the 2021 Olympics, Norway’s Karsten Warholm won the men’s 400m hurdles with a time of 45.94 to smash his own world record of 46.70.

At the 2022 World Championships, Sydney McLaughlin won the women’s 400m hurdles with a time of 50.68, also erasing her own 2021 world record by 0.73 seconds, marking the sixth time in three years that the women’s record for the 400 m hurdles had been beaten after the Russian Yulia. Pechonkina’s time of 52.34 had lasted 16 years.

But let’s assume that recent world record holders aren’t using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, even though we know that many racing medalists have recently been banned from using PEDs or avoiding tests.

If one has to accept that cheating with PEDs is so much more difficult today, given that a failed test could now be triggered by parts per trillion compared to parts per billion decades ago, it may well be that fast shoe technology compensates for a drop in performance in the years to come and helps produce world records over time.

Therefore, while Bolt worries that new technology will help sprinters match his time, fast shoe technology (affordable for most world-class athletes) will prove vastly superior to the level of inconsistency that existed until recently with respect to national drug testing regimes.

For example, it has been well documented that Jamaica had a very poor drug testing protocol up until the 2012 Olympics, including “a significant gap of no testing” between March and July 2012 as their athletes prepared for the 2012 Olympics. the Olympics. https://tomnew.medium.com/usain-bolt-lance-armstrong-and-the-duck-test-303b7b891e7e

A 2020 paper, based on information obtained from 3,863 blood samples during WCs in 2011 and 2013, also estimated an overall blood doping prevalence of 18% in 2011 and 15% in 2013.

Today, it is all the more difficult for any athlete from any nation to cheat.

As of August 26, 2022, with Kenya having 50 athletes currently suspended for drug use, with only Russia having more athletes banned, Kenya was one of seven Category A countries considered by the Integrity Unit of the athletics as presenting the highest doping risk, along with Bahrain. , Belarus, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria and Ukraine.

Any athlete from a “Category A” country is only eligible to compete at Worlds or the Olympics by being subjected to at least three out-of-competition tests without notice (urine and blood) which are carried out at least three weeks interval in the 10 months preceding a major event.

Usain Bolt

Gold medalist Usain Bolt of Jamaica. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

In reality, and although out-of-competition testing was widely implemented after the 1988 Olympics, when 100m winner Ben Johnson was surprised by PEDs, global competitions remained quite unfair for many years. decades, with athletes from nations benefiting the most from lax testing regimes.

At the same time, some Western runners have thrived on being backed by the best knowledge of how to fool drug tests for testosterone, growth hormone and other DEPs to increase strength, as well as erythropoietin (EPO) which stimulates “oxygen transport”. ‘ ability of blood to promote endurance.

With sports superstars like Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones only banned thanks to the intelligence and testimony of others, both athletes having passed virtually every drug test throughout their high profile careers, it is reasonable to conclude that many champions and racing records have been influenced by illegal PEDs.

As we know, running performance is greatly improved with the use of PED.

Take the example of Johnson, taken on steroids in 1988. In 1987, he ran the 60m indoors in 6.41. When he returned from his first two-year ban during the 1990-91 indoor season, he ran no better than 6.57 at the end of the 1992-93 indoor season, a time difference by about 2.5%.

Johnson didn’t start running fast again until 1993 while on testosterone to nearly break the 50m world record before being banned again.

Marion Jones at the Sydney Olympics

MarionJones. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

A 2019 trial also found that testosterone significantly improves female athletic performance with 48 healthy women (aged 18-35), who received 10 weeks of daily treatment with 10mg of testosterone cream to boost their levels. circulating testosterone increased from 0.9 nmol/ liter of blood to 4.3 nmol/L, improving their running time to exhaustion by an average of 8.5% (21.17 seconds) with an increase in their lean muscle mass of 923 g (398 g in the legs).

With an approved test for EPO introduced only at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a 2013 study by Yiannis Pitsiladis of 10 “trained runners” found that four weeks of EPO injections every other day improved their times. over 3000 m by 6% on average. (10:12 a.m. to 9:40 a.m.) with a 3% benefit still evident approximately four weeks later without additional EPO injections.

A 2013 study of 20 Kenyan runners who trained at altitude also found a similar improvement when using EPO, disproving the claim of famed Italian running coach Renato Canova who has repeatedly asserted that EPO was not helping Kenyan athletes.

If we are to accept that drug testing has gradually improved, including since 2005 when sport began stockpiling athlete samples for enhanced testing by freezing blood and urine samples for retrospective testing , fast shoes can be considered a fair way to help get rid of blemished records over time.

But, if DEPs are still an issue, with a 2020 article highlighting the continued difficulty of testing for microdosing of hormones that rapidly cleanse the body, we can only hope the testing system continues to improve to expose and prevent drug cheaters.

A talented athlete on PEDs, along with the new shoes, will eventually set more world records, including challenging those held by the great Usain Bolt.

Whatever the true current situation, it is difficult to compare the great champions only on the basis of times because the context changes from year to year with regard to the different influences, be it fast track, fast shoes or PED .

That’s why I like to watch the championships year by year, choosing to play down claims that recent world records are among the greatest of all time, given that each race can be influenced by very different factors. .

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