Eliud Kipchoge’s Nike shoes will be banned

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Times have been dropping in long distance races in recent years and critics say some top trainers are artificially improving performance.

A World Athletics review board investigated the technology in a leading sneaker line and adopted Nike’s controversial Vaporfly line, but it has instituted an “indefinite moratorium” on all shoes with thicker soles than 40 mm or with more than one rigid plate integrated into the shoe to enhance its spring.

From April 30, it will also ban all shoes that have not been put on public sale for four months from competition.

The new rules mean that the exclusive Nike shoe prototype dubbed Alphafly, worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he became the first person to run a marathon under two hours, would now be considered non-compliant.

“When World Athletics has reason to believe that a specific type of shoe or a specific technology may not comply with the rules or the spirit of the rules, it may submit the shoe or the technology for review and may prohibit it. ‘use of the shoe or the technology while it is being reviewed,’ a statement from World Athletics said Friday.

‘Innovative’

Nike launched its Vaporfly 4% shoe in 2016 and it quickly became a revolution in running.

A study in the journal Sports Medicine in 2017 suggested that the shoes, with chunky soles and a carbon fiber plate, offered a boost in running economy – the amount of work a runner has to do to a given speed – about 4% compared to another Nike model and a top trainer from Adidas.
A New York Times study in 2018 and another independent review in February 2019 confirmed the results. According to the New York Times, the five fastest men’s marathon times in history were set by runners from Vaporflys.
Kenyan Brigid Kosgei wore the publicly accessible Nike Vaporfly Next% when she broke Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon world record at age 16 last year. Other manufacturers have since released their own versions of the revolutionary shoes.

The World Athletics panel, which included technical, scientific and legal experts as well as athlete representatives, found that new coaches “may offer a performance advantage and that there is sufficient evidence to raise concerns that the integrity of sport is not threatened by recent developments “. in footwear technology. “

He added that further research will be undertaken with biomechanics specialists and other experts to evaluate any new shoe, with manufacturers invited to participate in the process.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said it was not for his organization to “regulate the entire athletic footwear market”, although he added that this should “preserve the integrity of elite competition “.

“As we move into the Olympic year, we don’t think we can rule out shoes that have been generally available for some time, but we can draw a line by banning the use of shoes that go deeper than what is currently. available. the market while we investigate further, ”he said.

“I believe these new rules strike the right balance in providing certainty for athletes and manufacturers as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, while also addressing concerns that have been raised about footwear technology. .

“If new evidence becomes available that we need to tighten these rules, we reserve the right to do so to protect our sport.”

Kipchoge compared running a less than two hour marathon to Neil Armstrong’s historic moon landing in 1969 and the Kenyan sees nothing wrong with the advancement of shoe design.

“They are fair,” he told the Telegraph newspaper. “I’ve trained hard. Technology is developing and we can’t deny it – we have to go with technology.”

However, British Olympic marathoner Mara Yamauchi believes that allowing a technological arms race in footwear leads to dangerous territory for the sport.

“If they say doping is not allowed because it improves performance but we agree with these shoes which also improve performance, there is a bit of inconsistency in that”, a- she told the BBC ahead of World Athletics’ decision.

“What we are grappling with now is not who is the best athlete, but who has the best shoes.”

Swimming is another sport that has had to contend with the consequences of technological improvements.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 94% of all swimming races were won by athletes wearing Speedo LZR Racer swimsuits, according to Time Magazine.

After 17 world records fell at the European Short Course Championships later that year, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) changed its rules regarding the length and material of swimsuits.

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei won the Chiacgo Marathon with a new world record of 2: 14.04 in October.
“We are talking about performance integrity,” said respected sports scientist Professor Ross Tucker, speaking to CNN ahead of Kipchoge’s less than two hour attempt in October.

“Is Kipchoge an outlier with immense athletic potential? Or is he just a very good runner who benefits from the immense improvements his shoes have made? Maybe both.

“But the point is, we don’t know that with absolute certainty. Running, especially marathon running, is said to be the purest thing humans inflict on themselves. It’s just about the feet. , legs, lungs, heart and brain. These shoes create the same thing. problems that doping raises. “

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