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Does Canada’s “Top Secret” research undermine the Olympic spirit?

December 24th, 2009

Of the $117 million spent by Canada’s “Own the Podium” initiative over the past five years, $7.5 million has been allocated to a research program called “Top Secret.” This program aims to produce exclusive technologies that will help Canadian athletes win medals at the 2010. For the most part, it’s the kind of thing you’d guess — advanced speed suits, better bobsleighs, fasters skate runners, and so on.

The question is: Is this fair? In the past, Canadian athletes have often been on the losing end because teams from the U.S. or Europe or Australia had more sophisticated equipment; now we’re trying to turn the tables. But sports technology has been in the spotlight recently, thanks to issues like the fancy new swimsuits that have seen 250 world records topple in the past two years — and which will be banned starting in 2010.

For an article in the Jan.-Feb. issue of The Walrus magazine, I visited some of Canada’s leading sports technology researchers at the University of Calgary, and headed to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, which is considered a model for advanced sports science. I also spoke the ethicists, and the inventor of the Therma-Blade heated hockey skate. And I ended up with some distinct opinions about whether we should continue funding programs like Top Secret… You can read the article, “Faster, Higher, Sneakier,” here.

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