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Future Athletes

Future athletes combnied with high tech sports medicine will be rife with moral implications that will need to be addressed. Intertwined with future medical technology, sports technology in the years to come will be far-reaching and travel into unforeseen territory.

Oscar Pistorius (left) Competes on "Ski Legs"

In order to understand the future let's travel to the past for a moment. Already with the Barry Bonds scandal the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs have been put front and center. The authorities in sports have decided that these drugs give one set of athletes an unfair advantage over the other athletes plus they justify their decisions because steroid use can be dangerous to the athlete.

So, now let's take another angle as that is of athletes who are disabled but are still able to perform well with a little mechanical help. One such case is that of Casey Martin who is a professional golfer with a degenerative disease known as KTWS. The PGA said Martin could not play in its tournament because he was physically unable to walk the golf course. He needed the accommodation of a motorized golf cart and the PGA said this was an unfair advantage and denied him play.

Let's take another case of the disabled sprinter from South Africa, Oscar Pistorius (pictured above). He calls himself the fastest man with no legs. Instead just below the knee he was fitted with some carbon fiber ski-like device that gave him an extra spring in his step when he ran according to sports officials. His J-shaped blades were known as Cheetahs (which could be a dual purpose word for fast cat or one who cheats).

Pistorius was not allowed to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing because his prosthetic legs would "give him an unfair advantage".

In order to understand the future let's also talk about what is unraveling here and now. One place in which future athletes may be developed is in sperm banks. Dr. Robert Graham conducted eugenics experiments on approximately 230 children.

The purpose of breeding these "super babies" was to create exceptionally smart children, not necessarily super athletes. But, who is to say that there is no underground Sports Sperm Bank offering just these services. Think this is far-fetched?

Then check out California Cryobank which is a place where sperm donors need to be celebrity look-alikes. But, these celebrity look-alikes also include the likes of celebrity athletes such as Brett Favre and Jeremy Shockey. Shocked?

Predictions for the Future

Since what I've already stated is already happening here and now, let's make a few predictions for future sports technology and the impact this will have on athletes and the games they play. These will be more in the form of questions as things to think about as the field of sports develops and technology plays a bigger role in people's physical makeup.

A few years ago famous baseball player Mickey Mantle was looking for a new liver and on a donor's list because his was failing after years of alcohol abuse. Mantle died of liver cancer when he was 47-years-old. Now let's suppose for a moment that his heart was still good and that he was an organ donor and the recipient was a golfer who couldn't walk the PGA tour because of his heart condition.

Would Mickey Mantle's heart transplant give him an unfair advantage or would it just give him the same advantage as all of the other players on the field?

The genetically engineered super baby athletes is a discussion too long to hold here but do you think this should be allowed or would this create an unfair advantage for future professional athletes? If so, how would one stop this from happening? Even without the use of sperm banks, people could hook up via word of mouth, Twitter, Facebook, some matchmaker service and fornicate au natural with the same effect.

Now, let's look at both genetic engineering and bioengineering for a moment to see if these are both "ethical" and "moral" in creating super future athletes. Gene splicing and genetic modification may have both intended and unintended consequences of which we aren't even aware of yet in regard to sports. The same goes for bioengineering. We have some idea of the benefits because of recent tests and even mainstreaming of genetically modified crops and farm animals but creating super athletes is still a bit down the road (or is it?).

Unfair Advantage?

Future sports technology will need to deal with artificial limbs and other body parts. If an athlete is injured and receives a new hip or knee or lower leg will this give them an unfair advantage? If an athlete receives a bionic eye with telescopic properties will this be acceptable or not?

What is say a pitcher in baseball receives a bionic arm, but not his pitching arm, would this be acceptable to the Commissioner of Baseball? What if his bionic arm is his pitching arm and he doesn't throw the ball as well as he used to using the new arm, but still good enough the play. Would this be acceptable? What if in a few years, this arm got an upgrade and now the pitcher throws harder, with more movement on the baseball and faster than before. Will he be kicked out of the game?

The same can be said of artificial legs for soccer players or those who participate in track and field.

Suppose a long distance runner received an artificial heart because of necessity. The artificial heart happened to be more efficient than the real heart in pumping blood through the body and the runner could now run longer distances with less fatigue than before. Would this be fair? How about boxers with bionic arms? What will it take for cyborg athletes to be accepted?

Now, to go on the dark side for a moment, if these medical modifications and adaptations were allowed in sports, what would stop top athletes from seeking out artificial organs and body parts (even though they aren't injured or sick) in order to stay competitive with other athletes that are using bionics or genetic modifications?

The tipping point may come when the number of "technologically modified" athletes or would-be professional athletes out-number those who have not been altered before or after birth in some obvious way. When the "best athletes in the world" are no longer those who have never been modified by science and technology and there needs to be a place for those who have there will most likely be a huge paradigm shift in future sports.

High Tech and Mount Olympus

In the future there may be such things as the "Special Olympics", "The Olympics" and the "Super Olympics". Will the best athletes in the world (the ones who have been modified) become the most popular venue or more like a circus attraction? Only time will tell.

But, one thing is for sure. We will not be able to separate future sports technology from future medicine. The two are forever intertwined. We will have to decide as a society what is and what is not an acceptable use of technology. And these guidelines may vary from one country to the next. When we compete with these countries internationally we'll have to work this out. And keeping on the international level a moment longer, let's not even talk about emerging technology and future soldiers right now since this is a whole different discussion altogether.


Written by Kevin Lepton