When Is Fast Tech Too Fast?

When does an innovation in speed cross the line of fair competition or safety?

Cover art for episode 325 with Dr. Ray Browning in the lab.

Every few years the debate seems to come up in another sport: a new style of uniform, more aerodynamic piece of equipment, or added technology is introduced that aids in making an athlete faster. Athletes and spectators become divided on whether or not such innovations should stay in competition, and governing bodies respond to each advancement differently. 

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Seeing the latest controversies in cycling time trial helmets and triathlon chest fairings made Fast Talk Labs content manager Andrea Dehnke wonder, is there a line that can be drawn when it comes to fast tech? She brought the question to Fast Talk veterans Rob Pickels and Grant Holicky to get their opinions, and invited Dr. Ray Browning into the conversation as well.  

Dr. Browning is a seven-time IRONMAN winner and cofounder of Biomotum, a company that helps people walk through robotic gait training. Formerly, he was a professor in biomechanics, a product development consultant, and senior director in footwear research at Nike. He provides important insight into the biomechanics of innovations across several different sports. 

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On this episode, we go into a brief history of key fast tech advancements in swimming, running, cycling, triathlon, and speedskating; and discuss their subsequent ban from sport or introduction into standard practice. Using these examples, we ask ourselves, when is fast too fast? And where can we draw the line when it comes to innovation in sport? 

So pull on your spandex, and let’s make you fast! (But not too fast.) 

FURTHER READING: A Review on Aerodynamics and Hydrodynamics in Sports