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
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
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
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?).
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
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.
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