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Olympics 2012 talk

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Ross Tucker

on 19 October 2015

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Transcript of Olympics 2012 talk

Ross Tucker
The hidden side of the Olympic Games
In the pool and on the track, technology influences performance. Where is the line of fairness?
The "pharmacological arms race" has never been fiercer. Are we turning a corner?
The blade runner is both the most inspirational and controversial athlete at the Games. The scientific evidence, however, is less grey than the PR suggests
12 in 2012?
We've been promised 12 medals. What should we expect?
The role of science
Technological warfare
"12 in 2012"
Pre-EPO test
Abnormally high % with HIGH Ret%
About 1 in 8 samples "abnormal"
EPO test developed
About 1 in 10 samples "abnormal"
Abnormally LOW % with HIGH Ret%
Post-EPO, pre Bio-passport
About 1 in 40 samples "abnormal"
Doping has been squeezed down
Post Bio-passport
Biological passport introduced
Establish the theory
Scientific process
Known theory
Research/ gather data
Revise hypothesis
Confirm hypothesis
Flex-foot characteristics
8% energy loss
2.95 kg
Human limb characteristics
40-60% energy loss
5 - 8 kg
± 7 fold greater energy return
2-5 kg lighter mass
(F = ma)
Less work (energy) to run
The theory
Lower metabolic demand to run at given speeds
Research study # 1
At 400m sprint speeds, Pistorius uses 25% LESS oxygen than able-bodied sprinters. This confirms the theory, but with important fine-print
During sprinting, energy comes from two sources
For the purposes of appeal (CAS), Pistorius needed to cast doubt on this "metabolic difference"
Repeat the running test, but at slower speeds and hope Pistorius is similar to able-bodied sprinters
OP compared to able-bodied SPRINTERS
What if we add some long-distance runners to able-bodied group?
Competitive imbalance
Wearing the LZR
Wearing anything but the LZR
Also gave disproportionately large benefit to larger body shapes
94 won
Clearance sale on records - everything must go!
37 Olympic
14 World
29 Olympic
11 World
The approximate average size of the advantage in the suit
Number of world records set between introduction and ban of high-tech swimsuit (I think...)
100m freestyle world record - a bumpy evolution/revolution
Swimming goggles
2008: The LZR Racer by Speedo
No seams - ultra-sonically bonded
Primary objective - reduce drag from the skin
Polyurethane panels - zero resistance
Core compression/ "corset" to hold swimmer's body in optimal shape
Swimming performances have always been susceptible to equipment innovation
The Speedo Fastskin:
Faster than ever?
As of Jan 1st 2010, new stipulations:
The war on drug cheats has evolved. Here's how, and a message of qualified hope
Companies always make claims about their latest equipment. Most of it is marketing. But once in while, they hit the 'jackpot' and the sport is transformed. For better or worse...
The Olympics are as much a showcase of sports science as they are the human spirit. When perfection matters, every millisecond counts
"A 12-second advantage"
"common sense"
The science of the Blade Runner
Beijing was South Africa's worst Olympic showing ever. Will London be our best?
The suit, cap & goggles "engineered to work in unison"
And on land, we have the Nike Turbospeed suit
Wind tunnel tests suggest a 0.023s improvement in a 100m race
A look inside the doping cabinet
Doping basics
Prohibited substances
Prohibited methods
The smoking gun fallacy
In hindsight, naive to expect that doping control would produce clear & incontrovertible evidence
An evolution of anti-doping to be a) long term and b) repeated
The Athlete Biological Passport System
Rather than finding the foreign substance in the body, look for its effects
Longitudinal - multiple tests per year
There is natural biological variation in blood variables, and unusually large deviations are flagged as "suspicious"
A calculated "off score"
"Immature" red blood cells
If blood is removed
If blood is re-infused
If EPO is used
(not to scale)
(not to scale)
(not to scale)
(not to scale)
0.5% - 1.5%
stops producing new blood
EPO causes
more red blood cell production
Body responds by
making more new blood
Ret %
Ret %
Ret %
By tracking every athlete over time, anti-doping gets a "fingerprint" that allows any future changes to be detected in the context of individual physiology
Addition of elite marathon runners from scattered studies
Compared to other sprinters in the available literature
Lower metabolic demand to run at given speeds
Mechanics of Oscar Pistorius
Why, if the data exist for sprinters, would they have compared him to a group of long-distance runners?
"There's so much information out there and so many scientists. Just because a guy's got a title of doctor or professor doesn't mean he has any knowledge in the field," said Pistorius. "I hope that one day we'll get over this point and people are informed and they take the time to do their research. There will always be a scientist or a doctor who is looking for a platform and looking to make a name for himself and he'll debate anything – he'll say wet is dry and green is red. Unfortunately there are journalists that do give these guys a platform and when they're called up they love to sing a song. It is something that does still get me a bit down, but I've done as much as I can do." - Pistorius, quoted in The Guardian, July 17 2012
Performance implications
Distance (m)
Anti-doping practice changes performance
"We conclude that running on modern, lower-limb sprinting prostheses appears to be
physiologically similar
but mechanically different from running with intact limbs"
To distance runners
There was plenty of comparable data on sprinters, so why not use it?
How do humans get faster?
Swinging their legs faster
Applying more force
to the ground
Studies show that we get faster by...
A changing sport
1993 - 2006
Ave: > 6 W/kg
Max: > 6.3 W/kg
2007 - present
Ave: 5.7 W/kg
Max: 5.9 W/kg
When compared to the correct control group, Pistorius is
14% (2.3 SD)
more economical
The ability to swing the leg faster is LIMITED. So we need to apply more and more force to the ground - the athletic limit
As sprinters get faster, their swing times level off
A "speed limit" in how rapidly the legs can move at top speed
Time to reposition limbs
faster than average of athletes tested in lab
faster than two 2 men in 100m final at World Championships
faster than the fastest individuals recorded in history
Pistorius: repositioning limbs "off the biological charts"
The effect of fast limb movement is...
Adjusting swing times to "average": 12 sec slower
Adjusting to fastest ever:
± 6 sec slower
Are they the "same blades"?
A company called Flex-Foot debuted the Cheetah in 1996, but the prosthetic blades remained a bit crude until Flex-Foot was acquired by the Icelandic firm Ossur in 2000...But
last September, Pistorius and Brauckmann went to Reykjavik to test prototypes
designed for double amputees. The new ones, which Pistorius hasn’t debuted at a major race yet, make just one smooth curve, an arc of pure engineering. Ossur’s R&D team met them at the company’s workshop and unveiled the prototypes. Brauckmann attached the blades to the sockets, and Pistorius walked around on them, testing the design.
- written by "Wired" magazine, March 2008
Lighter limbs, more energy return
Lower cost of running, mechanical advantage
"Off biological charts"
The disadvantages
No calf muscles
Contribution made by calf MUSCLE to propulsion
Which has greater energy return (spring?)
Slow start
100m best: 10.91s
Max 0.5s
"I see 12 medals in the team. There is no doubt about it that there are a lot of potential medalists. When I was going through the team I said to myself that there is a lot of potential here"
1992 - 2008
Within a FORMALIZED system, money in = medals out
Over-achievers: Punching above their weight
Zimbabwe win the most medals per million people
Caribbean islands dominate per billion $
Naive or delusional?
Olympic/HP spend in four-year cycle
£ 265 million
R 3.47 billion
Projected medal count 48
From at least 12 sports
For top 4 ranking in table
R 2.6 billion
Huge increase ahead of Rio 2016
Target 15 in London
30 in Rio
"It’s no use getting R$1 billion (US$ 510 million) in 2015, because I can’t buy medals. I have to make medal winners, and that takes eight years, 10 years. I need, at the very least, six years"
R 1.2 billion
Historically best performing "big nation"
R 1.1 billion
Part of a 2028 Olympic vision
R 59 million in Beijing
R 78 million for London
R 65.6 M/medal
R 64.1 M/medal
R 59 M/medal
1.5 medals in London?
If the price of medals was uniform:
11 in Beijing would cost R660 million
14 in Beijing would cost R840 million
R 720 million for 11 in Beijing
(9.2 times more than actual)
Fortunately the cost of medals is a function of the system in which the money is spent
Equivalent in running time: Usain Bolt slows down from 9.58s to 10.06s
separates gold from nothing
If SA want 12 medals at our current price-point
Does more
make sense?
The difference between gold and anonymity
What sets the price of medals?
Supply & demand
Formal system from production to sale
On a black market, price is variable
Doing the right things will increase spend
Increased spending does not necessarily do the right thing
Not winning a medal would disappoint
80% probability
Realistic chance, but a lot must go right
20 - 50% probability
Cameron van der Burgh
Sunette Viljoen
Burry Stander
Strongest event - 50m breaststroke, not Olympic event
Unpredictable event, weather variability, recent form
Credentials at global level, experience
Consistency, world silver medal in 2011. Best will be medal guarantee
Recent form, exceptionally well-prepared
Event susceptible to 'luck', competitor strength
Khotso Mokoena
Experience, unpredictable event
Recent form, patchy since 2009
Richard Murray
Nearly unmatched running ability. Confidence. Recent form
Swim, may have to work excessively hard on the bike. No team-mates. The Brownlees
LJ van Zyl
Caster Semenya
Historical credentials, best performances would medal
Injuries and 2011 form, lack of competition in 2011
Chad le Clos
Precocious talent, confidence, nothing-to-lose
Age, lack of experience on truly global stage. Phelps & Lochte
Realistic chance, but a lot must go right
10% probability
Men's lightweight four
Women's pair
4 x 100m medley relay
4 x 400m relay
Bridgette Hartley
"I see 12 medals in the team. There is no doubt about it that there are a lot of potential medalists. When I was going through the team I said to myself that there is a lot of potential here"
Full transcript