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Idle Technology

Controversy Over High-Tech Brooms Sweeps Through Sport of Curling 181

HughPickens.com writes: Billy Witz reports at the NYT that the friendly sport of curling suddenly has become roiled in controversy over — what else? — the brooms. The crux of the debate is fabric — specifically, something called directional fabric. The use of this material in broom pads is the latest escalation in an arms race among manufacturers, whereby the world's best curlers can guide the 44-pound stone around a sheet of ice as if it were controlled by a joystick. Many of the sport's top athletes, but not all of them, signed an agreement last month not to use the newest brooms. But with few regulations on the books and Olympic qualifying tournaments underway this month, the World Curling Federation has stepped in and issued new rules that set severe restrictions on the types of brooms that can be used. "There's definitely some anger over it," says Dean Gemmell. "In curling, we're generally known for being pretty friendly with most of your opponents. Even at the big events, you see the top players hanging out. But it's sort of taken that away this year, that's for sure."

It was prototype brooms made by BalancePlus that were the focus of complaints at the Toronto tournament, but Scott Taylor, president of BalancePlus, says they were never intended for sale, and were meant to demonstrate the problems that the reversed fabrics could cause. Players say the brooms allowed sweepers to "steer" the rock much more than they were comfortable with, and even slow them down. The brooms have been compared to high-tech drivers that allow amateur golfers to hit the ball as far as a pro, or the advanced full-body swimsuits that were banned from competition in 2010 for providing an unfair advantage. Of his company's high-tech broom, Taylor says: "This isn't good. It's like hitting a golf ball 500 yards."
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Controversy Over High-Tech Brooms Sweeps Through Sport of Curling

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  • Looking forwards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by coastwalker ( 307620 ) <<acoastwalker> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:20AM (#50969013) Homepage

    I find it hard to decide whether banning human assistive technology in sport is a good thing. One day the average teenager with a toy or the right diet will perform better than the best athlete if we prevent athletes from using assistive technologies. So what should we do? Expect sportspeople to live outside society and perform "human" sport for our entertainment?

    • Re:Looking forwards (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:28AM (#50969039)

      One day the average teenager with a toy or the right diet will perform better than the best athlete if we prevent athletes from using assistive technologies.

      To some extent that is already true. No cyclist in the world can compete with a teenager using a motorized version.

      So what should we do? Expect sportspeople to live outside society and perform "human" sport for our entertainment?

      Well, they already are. There is no inherent benefit from sports other than our entertainment and athletes already live a life pretty different from average Joe.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by coastwalker ( 307620 )

        It is certainly true that they are already leading lives different to the average Joe when they can get a life ban from sport for using an over the counter cold treatment that contains a banned substance. Maybe one day we will be raising children in special camps where modern medicine is banned just so they can compete in sports. We could call the camps "Human Zoos".

        • Re:Looking forwards (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @12:49PM (#50970401)

          It is certainly true that they are already leading lives different to the average Joe when they can get a life ban from sport for using an over the counter cold treatment that contains a banned substance.

          Yeah, and they can get a ban for eating a salad (made of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]). Over simplifying the issues and presenting as an absolute with the intention of deceiving is a lie. You are lying. An athelete with a cold can go to a medical doctor, have their symptoms diagnosed, and be issued a prescription for a banned substance, then compete while on that banned substance and test positive for that banned substance, and not have any sanctions taken against them, even if they win (which, is unlikely if they are competing with a bad cold).

          Now, if the athlete is sneaking banned substances and breaking the rules by taking it in secret in unknown doses, the sensitive tests that look for it will get a true positive, and without the pre-disclosure and documented treatment regimen, will be assumed to be an abuser.

          The system works as intended, and isn't nearly as bad as the abusers claim it is.

          • I would be surprised if even physicians were on top of the list of banned substances, it is quite a long one. http://www.usada.org/substance... [usada.org]
            Not to mention the fact that not all medications list their full contents, the best advice these days says take nothing at all and just drink more water. http://www.sportsinjurybulleti... [sportsinjurybulletin.com]

            • Re:Looking forwards (Score:5, Informative)

              by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @02:27PM (#50970997)

              Not to mention the fact that not all medications list their full contents,

              It's not that nobody knows what's in the medicines, but that the list of regulated substances from the sport don't match the legal regulations, so an ingredient isn't required by law to be listed, so it isn't, but it's still a banned substance.

              Further is that the banned substances lists are often silly, as the body will create or metabolize the banned substance, such that consuming a non-banned substance can generate a "fail" because the non-banned substance will be metabolized into a banned substance in the body, or trigger the release of a banned substance by the body itself. If you made a pill that was not banned, but it triggered a release of HGH inside your body, then the pill is effectively banned, even if nothing in it is banned, nor is metabolized into a banned substance.

              Almost all of this is known and not a surprise, but the trainers feign ignorance as they guide athletes to the best performance they can, hopefully (but not always) within the rules.

              And none of that matters, as Lance can dope for years, over many tests, and never test positive. The tests are obviously beatable. The only way to win is cheat, for most sports. Train with steroids, then stop at some threshold before testing, so you get a pass result. Worked for Arnold (and almost everyone else in the sport). The muscles you cheat on don't disappear when you stop taking the steroids. But the tests will come back with a pass.

              • Train with steroids, then stop at some threshold before testing, so you get a pass result. Worked for Arnold (and almost everyone else in the sport).

                Why would he stop? I didn't think professional bodybuilding involves drug tests.

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            Andreea Rducan [wikipedia.org] was stripped of a gold medal due to a cold remedy actually handed to her by a doctor. In hearings following the incident, suspension was on the table.

            The doctor involved was suspended for prescribing a banned substance (telling us that the medication WAS acknowledged to be prescribed AND that the athlete was still penalized for taking it). Just to top it off, the medication made her feel dizzy, so it was far from performance enhancing for a gymnast.

            So if GP's exaggeration of the penalties ma

            • http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_... [go.com]

              Miguel Tejada was suspended for 105 games for failing to renew his Adderall exemption. He has ADHD and legitimately takes Adderall, but because it is on the banned substance list, and his exemption expired, he has a huge suspension.

    • Re:Looking forwards (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:44AM (#50969113) Homepage

      Cycling, despite all the drug problems, is kind of in a similar place right now. You can go buy a road bike right now, that weighs just over 10 pounds. But the pros are restricted to using bikes that weigh at least 15 pounds. Some pros have even been known to add lead weight to their bike in order to not run afoul of the minimum weight limit. Note: This is completely within the rules.

      I think that at the amateur level, there should definitely be rules about what kind of equipment you can use. Otherwise, many people who might end up being great at the professional level will never get there, as they were discouraged by the fact that they are continually losing to those with more money.

      On the other hand, the professionals, with rich sponsors, it makes little reason to try and limit specific technologies. Obviously you want to disallow anything that would make the athletes unsafe. You probably also want to keep the general idea of the sport the same. Such as no recumbent bicycles in bike races meant for upright bikes. But limiting things like the fabric on curling brooms or the shape and material of your swimsuit seems like it's pushing things a little bit too far.

      • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @10:29AM (#50969367)

        Cycling, despite all the drug problems, is kind of in a similar place right now. You can go buy a road bike right now, that weighs just over 10 pounds. But the pros are restricted to using bikes that weigh at least 15 pounds. Some pros have even been known to add lead weight to their bike in order to not run afoul of the minimum weight limit. Note: This is completely within the rules.

        I think that at the amateur level, there should definitely be rules about what kind of equipment you can use. Otherwise, many people who might end up being great at the professional level will never get there, as they were discouraged by the fact that they are continually losing to those with more money.

        On the other hand, the professionals, with rich sponsors, it makes little reason to try and limit specific technologies. Obviously you want to disallow anything that would make the athletes unsafe. You probably also want to keep the general idea of the sport the same. Such as no recumbent bicycles in bike races meant for upright bikes. But limiting things like the fabric on curling brooms or the shape and material of your swimsuit seems like it's pushing things a little bit too far.

        Even at the professional level there will disparities between what one team can afford and another. That is why some sports instituted things such as salary caps. The point is to keep the playing field level for all. I think that makes sense at every competition level. Of course, it'll never be completely level as those with money can devote more time and money on practicing and coaching. But at least you can guarantee that everyone is using roughly the same equipment. I'm not saying you should specifically disallow technology like this. I just think that the competition is better when there is some common requirement for equipment. It allows the athlete to shine and not the gear.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Cycling, despite all the drug problems, is kind of in a similar place right now.

        This isn't a problem limited to cycling right now. Cycling is notorious for blocking advancements. Derailleurs, recumbents, disc brakes, and even different positions (such as Obree's "superman" position) have all been banned at one time or another (or still continue to be banned).

        It's an interesting sport for the human elements, but it's kind of like Nascar on the technology end of things - purposely limiting what can and can'

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by derrickn ( 2714097 )
        Are you in favour of cork-ed bats, then, too? And, yes, I realize that a small part of the issue with corked bats is safety (some of them broke badly). But in general, its perfectly reasonable to limit the equipment that is used for specific sports. Hockey goalies can't wear pads that exceed certain dimensions, NFL QBs can't deflate footballs, and so on, and so on
        • Re:Looking forwards (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @12:38PM (#50970343) Homepage

          The only problem that I have with the corked bat is that traditionally in the pros, the bats have always been pure ash, or other hardwoods such as maple or hickory. If you're going to go the route of using corked bats, then that's fine, but you might as well allow any other materials such as aluminum. The simple solid wooden bat is a clear and distinct rule.

          If curling was limited to straw brooms, then I could see why they would want to disallow everything but straw. But as soon as you let people start using synthetic fabrics, then disallowing one fabric will just cause the competitors to find a different fabric with the same properties. It basically creates an arms race for who can find the best way to go around the rules without technically breaking them.

        • by unrtst ( 777550 )

          I think this is a great point, and I think it's very easy to solve for competitions. Just issue everyone involved identical equipment.
          Depending on the sport, one could draw a line regarding various pieces of the equipment (ex. the shorts and jerseys used in soccer probably don't matter all that much; the ball is already shared, so that's already equalized; shoes... there are standards right now, but they don't issue standard equipment for each game).
          For curling and baseball, the brooms and bats should, IMO,

          • This would require there to be the same attribute being the deciding factor for all competitors. If you take cricket bats for example they are fixed width but there is a huge variation in weight. Heavier bats hit are but slow your ability to react and hence mean you have to plan shots earlier. Lighter bats mean you have to swing harder but have far more scope to start your shots later or change angle mid shot.

            When it comes to cycling the gearing will be tuned to the particular rider. Watch a cycling com

          • The problem is that the bikes are paid for by sponsors. If you give everybody the same bike, or 1 of 3 bikes to choose from, then basically nobody will sponsor the sport, and you lose out on a huge amount of money. Bike racing is just a huge advertisement for bicycle manufacturers and other sponsors.

    • Re:Looking forwards (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PsychoSlashDot ( 207849 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:44AM (#50969115)

      I find it hard to decide whether banning human assistive technology in sport is a good thing.

      My issue with this stuff is it's all so arbitrary. Hockey players aren't forced to use sticks improvised from re-used household materials. Tennis rackets aren't reduced to whatever hardcover books the players can find laying around. Swimmers aren't required to don industry-standard street-wear.

      No. Organized sports allow their participants and technology to optimize... until suddenly they don't.

      The argument is usually "we want a level playing field", but that's still rubbish. Somali kids don't have access to the carbon-fiber gear kids in the US have. Even access to health-care and nutrition isn't balanced world-wide. When athletes are required to be raised from infants on the borderline-sufficient foods that some people live on, then we can call things "fair". Until then, I don't see a meaningful difference between steroid-use and nutritionally-balanced breakfasts, between cutting-edge broom-heads and custom-fit swimsuits.

      These gentleman's agreements are bunk, making the very idea of sports competitions a joke. These are not the best of the best, they're the best of what they feel like allowing - for now.

      • by damaki ( 997243 )
        Then there are already a bunch of sports (motor included) which are a joke to you:
        - Formula 1 and pretty much every motor sport gear has limitation on tire grip, engine power, aerodynamics, brake/acceleration assistance, and much more
        - cycling, where they have to actually add weight to the bicycles. Consumer bikes go faster than pro ones - swimming, where full body suits were banned
        - in athletics, they forbid some special floor material which allowed to break records (I don't remember the year, though),
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

          cycling, where they have to actually add weight to the bicycles. Consumer bikes go faster than pro ones

          That's simply false. You pick the level track, and the person on the 15 lb pro bike will have an advantage over the 10 lb consumer bike. The weight was to prevent the $5,000,000 bike having an advantage over the $20,000 pro bike on climbs and such. There's a point where spending $1,000,000 per gram (of lightness) no longer has anything to do with skill or ability. So minimum weights were set in the days where it was reasonable for a bike set in race trim. That carbon fiber and such made it to sub-$1000

      • I find it hard to decide whether banning human assistive technology in sport is a good thing.

        My issue with this stuff is it's all so arbitrary. Hockey players aren't forced to use sticks improvised from re-used household materials. Tennis rackets aren't reduced to whatever hardcover books the players can find laying around. Swimmers aren't required to don industry-standard street-wear. No. Organized sports allow their participants and technology to optimize... until suddenly they don't. The argument is usually "we want a level playing field", but that's still rubbish. Somali kids don't have access to the carbon-fiber gear kids in the US have. Even access to health-care and nutrition isn't balanced world-wide. When athletes are required to be raised from infants on the borderline-sufficient foods that some people live on, then we can call things "fair". Until then, I don't see a meaningful difference between steroid-use and nutritionally-balanced breakfasts, between cutting-edge broom-heads and custom-fit swimsuits. These gentleman's agreements are bunk, making the very idea of sports competitions a joke. These are not the best of the best, they're the best of what they feel like allowing - for now.

        Peoples talent level is arbitrary also. No one is arguing that you should handicap more talented athletes. The point is to provide a common set of equipment to everyone so that the best athlete wins and not the guy with the most money. It's impossible to balance it out completely, as you've pointed out. People who come from abundant wealth will have more time to devote to their sport. Since they already have this advantage over the Somali swimmer, why would you let them wear a full body suit that has l

        • Instead of banning full-body suits because Somalis can't afford them, why can't they just give some full-body suits to the Somalis? Seriously, how much can a swimsuit cost?

          I get that there should be limits so that super-rich people don't win everything by throwing gobs of money at it and getting ultra-expensive gear. However it seems to me that athletes should be able to use readily-available, off-the-shelf consumer gear that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. If your average (not rich) non-professional swim

      • At some point it is no longer an athletic competition and rather an equipment competition. That's what the governing bodies are trying to avoid.
      • Even more true in the context of this "dramatic advance" in curling tech. Unless I'm grossly misunderstanding TFA, it sounds like they literally flipped the broom pad over, which apparently enables godlike control over the frosty rock.

        This isn't nanolaser-propelled unobtainium bike tires, it's reversing the grip tape on your baseball bat or taking the foam off your ping pong paddle. Again, corrections welcome if I misread it.

        On a somewhat tangential note, I've always thought baseball would be more i
      • My issue with this stuff is it's all so arbitrary

        All of sports is arbitrary. Have you seen the rules of basketball? Carry the ball two steps without bouncing, and you're fine. But three steps? That's a penalty.

        Baseball is even more crazy. Only one team can touch the ball, and the entire team is playing on the field against one (or up to four) players of the other team. Certain types of bats are allowed, and other types are heavily prohibited.

        Every game has rules. If chess didn't have rules, you could win by reaching across the table and stabbing your

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

          All of sports is arbitrary. Have you seen the rules of basketball? Carry the ball two steps without bouncing, and you're fine. But three steps? That's a penalty.

          Not if you are jumping for a dunk. You get 2 steps and a jump, and no limit on the number of steps in a "jump", that's not only arbitrary, but capricious.

          • Seems reasonable if it makes the game more entertaining.
            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              Then it's no longer a game of skill, but instead a sports exhibition. The rules as written aren't followed, but the interpretation of the rules dominates the rules.
              • Then it's no longer a game of skill, but instead a sports exhibition.

                It's definitely partially a sports exhibition. Skill is involved, but if it weren't an exhibition, it wouldn't be making prime time TV.

                • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
                  Exhibition vs test match. They are the Globetrotters vs Washington Generals, not a competition. If you ignore any of the rules to make it more entertaining, it shouldn't be able to legally be called a sport.
                  • If you ignore any of the rules to make it more entertaining, it shouldn't be able to legally be called a sport.

                    Legally? Is that regulated by the OED? What is their typical violation for such a punishment?

      • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @12:22PM (#50970231) Homepage

        I find it hard to decide whether banning human assistive technology in sport is a good thing.

        My issue with this stuff is it's all so arbitrary. Hockey players aren't forced to use sticks improvised from re-used household materials. Tennis rackets aren't reduced to whatever hardcover books the players can find laying around. Swimmers aren't required to don industry-standard street-wear. No. Organized sports allow their participants and technology to optimize... until suddenly they don't. The argument is usually "we want a level playing field", but that's still rubbish. Somali kids don't have access to the carbon-fiber gear kids in the US have. Even access to health-care and nutrition isn't balanced world-wide. When athletes are required to be raised from infants on the borderline-sufficient foods that some people live on, then we can call things "fair". Until then, I don't see a meaningful difference between steroid-use and nutritionally-balanced breakfasts, between cutting-edge broom-heads and custom-fit swimsuits. These gentleman's agreements are bunk, making the very idea of sports competitions a joke. These are not the best of the best, they're the best of what they feel like allowing - for now.

        That's completely fine. Don't forget that sports are just games. The rules of the game don't matter, as long as the rules are the same for everybody. Rules are often, and perhaps are unavoidably, arbitrary. I don't see a problem with that. Many rules in sports are arbitrary. Some rules arbitrarily try to make the game more exciting. Some rules draw a line on a level of risk to the players or spectators at some arbitrary point and prohibit dangerous behavior. Some rules arbitrarily try to ensure that the "rightful winner" should always win. As long as the rules are set and made known to all players well in advance, I have a hard time feeling any outrage, no matter how arbitrary the rules are.

      • Hockey players aren't forced to use sticks improvised from re-used household materials. Tennis rackets aren't reduced to whatever hardcover books the players can find laying around. Swimmers aren't required to don industry-standard street-wear.

        No, but you can bet your ass that if a piece of equipment gave you an unfair mechanical advantage they sure as hell would change the rules.

        Swimmers, for instance have been banned from wearing some full-body suits because the advantage they gave over others wasn't shav

        • Swimmers, for instance have been banned from wearing some full-body suits because the advantage they gave over others wasn't shaving off a tiny bit, they were shaving off a lot.

          In a full-body suit you can't see how much they're shaving. Or where.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Until then, I don't see a meaningful difference between steroid-use and nutritionally-balanced breakfasts, between cutting-edge broom-heads and custom-fit swimsuits.

        The difference between steroid use and balanced nutrition, is that steroid use has well known negative long term health effects, and proven effectiveness at enhancing short term perfomance in sports.

        By allowing steroid use you create an environment where the cost of playing the sport is your long term health as if you aren't on steroids you won't win, and the steroids will eventually mess you up pretty bad.

      • People want entertainment and skill. Taking the most amount of steroids or doping is a feat of strength as much as is hitting a homerun or cycling over a mountain. But if your baseball bat hits the ball for you or your bicycle doesn't require pedaling, then there's no entertainment. Or in this case, if you can just carve a path in the ice with your broom and make the stone go where you want it to, then what's the point having a skilled thrower? If all you have to do is jump in the water and your magic swims
        • Taking the most amount of steroids or doping is a feat of strength as much as is hitting a homerun or cycling over a mountain.

          But "who can take the most performance-enhancing drugs without dying" is not a competition I think most of us want to encourage. It's kinda tough on the losers--and not all that gentle on the winners either, come to think of it.

      • These gentleman's agreements are bunk, making the very idea of sports competitions a joke. These are not the best of the best, they're the best of what they feel like allowing - for now.

        Maybe they need to have both. For instance, in sailing, there are several types of competition. There is One Design racing, where the boats are all required to be pretty much identical. Different boats have different restrictions (some restrict costs by doing things like limiting how many sets of sails you can buy each year, others pretty much say no limits), but within a fleet, the boats are pretty much identical. At some events, boats are even provided and/or you rotate between boats. This really m

      • I hope you're aware we're discussing a sport where a bunch of people take turns sliding a piece of polished granite with a handle towards a circle on an ice-covered floor and some of the people are allowed to sweep the path in front of the stone with a mop to alter its path.
        Aren't sports by definition a bunch of silly arbitrary rules that some guys back in the annals of history thought would make for a fun way to spend an afternoon and have evolved to huge lucrative opportunities to find people who happen t

      • Swimmers aren't required to don industry-standard street-wear.

        Well not industry standard but some of the suits that swimmers used years ago are now considered banned as it gave too much an advantage to some swimmers. After 20 new world records were set in the 2009 World Championships, a serious discussion had to occur. Eventually FINA banned the suits for competition.

    • by Tx ( 96709 )

      That's a strange argument; it's not about banning or not banning, it's about a) ensuring that some players don't have an unfair advantage over others, and b) that the sport doesn't simply become a technological arms race. That doesn't mean that you stop all development, otherwise tennis players would still play with wooden raquets, for example, and we wouldn't have innovations like hawkeye and TV referees. But you place restrictions on equipment so that new technology is allowed when it's readily available

      • At some point we may be seeing humans with genetically improved optical senses such as the ability to see in the infra red or ultra violet. Do we automatically ban them from sports because they might have an unfair advantage? I do not know the answer but it is only going to get messier from here on in.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:26AM (#50969027) Homepage Journal

    It's a silly idea in the first place. You don't take a penalty in football and have your team mates shifting the goalposts around. You don't see someone combing the grass to make a golf putt go in.

    • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
      But you do see golf clubs evolving over the years when novel materials are used to manufacture them, or when data shows a different mold is better. You get lighter clubs. Differently balanced clubs. Clubs with different grips, lengths, shapes, etc. All of which make it easier to do things that previous generations had to work very hard at, and therefore the previous generation is very biased towards maintaining the old status quo. I would bet that previously as new clubs allowed people to drive further, the
      • by cjjjer ( 530715 )

        I would bet that previously as new clubs allowed people to drive further, they just made bigger golf courses

        That is what is happening right now most of the PGA sanctioned courses have over the last decade been modifying lesser difficulty holes to be either longer, more strategic with hazard placement or redesigning the green area.

  • A new olympics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordWabbit2 ( 2440804 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:36AM (#50969075)
    I say we should start a new Olympics. Like we have one for disabled people we should have one for people who can take whatever drugs they like, can use any new fancy dangled tech they want. I would pay to watch that! 100 meter sprint and two people hearts explode. AWESOME!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They should combine sports too. Imagine combining archery with the high jump, or hockey with the 100 yard dash. Or go to extremes and create a sex while trampolining.
    • Regretfully I have to say that this is a highly likely scenario if sport does not accommodate augmented humans.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      So the 100m dash will be a race between two people shot from cannons. Entertaining I agree, but hardly "sporting".

      *spoiler alert*
      the human cannonball wearing rocket boosters wins.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I think this is a great idea, actually.

      As they say, water will find its own level. A sport that says "sure, take whatever drugs you want" will probably follow some kind of path.

      At first, it will be weird, high tech drugs that have minimal risks and probably marginal improvements. But the pressure of competition will result in increasingly risky drugs being used. Eventually athletes will die -- during competition, after competition or suffer debilitating chronic conditions after their careers are over.

      At

      • At some point, the athletes will only take drugs with minimal risks which will likely mean minimal performance enhancement and we'll reach the point where everybody is back to the same place.

        I admire your optimism and belief in people's rationality. Alas, I can't say I believe in it. People will continue to push the envelope and continue to die until it is banned once again.

  • So long as you don't electrify the damn things, there shouldn't be a problem.

    • The problem is they don't know what it will do to the ice surface.

      Curling is not played on smooth ice. The ice is sprayed with droplets of water that freeze quickly to create a bumpy surface called "pebble". Even with normal brooms this pebble can break down during play. A more abrasive material on the brooms could damage that pebble faster.

      • The problem is they don't know what it will do to the ice surface.

        Well seems to me like they could answer that question easily in a weekend. They can even have fun with it.

        Take a rink, and have an "experimental tournament". run it the whole weekend using the new brooms, and see what happens.

        Then free beer for everyone!

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

          Well seems to me like they could answer that question easily in a weekend. They can even have fun with it.

          You and I have vastly different definitions of "fun".

          • Well seems to me like they could answer that question easily in a weekend. They can even have fun with it.

            You and I have vastly different definitions of "fun".

            Could be. I am assuming since these folks participate in curling, they enjoy it on some level.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:47AM (#50969127) Homepage

    the friendly sport of curling suddenly has become roiled in controversy over — what else? — the brooms

    I think you meant "embroiled." I don't think you can be "roiled" in something.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:49AM (#50969131)

    It's no secret that curlers are probably using performance enhancing drugs.

  • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @10:16AM (#50969267) Homepage

    " World Curling Federation has stepped in and issued new rules that set severe restrictions on the types of brooms "

    It reminds me years ago when Illie Nastase used the infamous Spaghetti Racket which was mired in controversy decades ago when there was virtually no restrictions on tennis rackets.

    http://www.tennis.com/gear/201... [tennis.com]

  • The brooms have been compared to high-tech drivers that allow amateur golfers to hit the ball as far as a pro

    OK, where the hell can I get one of these? Is it rocket powered?

    Kidding aside, I do agree that sometimes the technology reaches the point where it really provides an unfair advantage and buggers up the concept of a level playing field.

  • by BadgerRush ( 2648589 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @11:19AM (#50969779)

    From what I gather, the whole controversy was manufactured by the broom manufacturer BalancePlus as a way to discredit or even ban the competitor manufacturer Hardline. Basically BalancePlus created a prototype broom which is meant to resemble their competitor's model in a few aspects, but also have a many "enhancements" which completely break the game (this is the "magical" broom that can control the rocks "like a joystick"). They created this game-breaking broom with the sole purpose of getting it banned and trying to get their competitor's model banned in the wake, which they accomplished.

    It is a bit like when Tomas Edison created AC contraptions to electrocute puppies in order to prove to everybody that Tesla's AC was dangerous and that everybody should use his DC standard instead.

  • When you need to be the first one down that alligator gullet, you know there are going to be people who look for any advantage.

  • If you can't play quidditch with it, don't allow it in curling.
  • Seems to me this could help the sport more than hurt it. If the guidance is more visible, it makes it more interesting to spectators. Something that swerves is more fun to watch than something that mostly stays in a straight line.

    • Seems to me this could help the sport more than hurt it. If the guidance is more visible, it makes it more interesting to spectators. Something that swerves is more fun to watch than something that mostly stays in a straight line.

      The problem is you can make rocks do this [youtube.com] and this [youtube.com]. The thrower is irrelevant on a shot like that since even a moderate sweeper can put the rock wherever they want. The skill and precision of the throwers is the big draw of the sport, along with the sweepers working like crazy to cause a moderate difference. With those brooms you end up turning it into a weird game of chess.

      Note that the brooms from that video were never actually released to market, they were just used to spark the controversy as a demonstr

  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Friday November 20, 2015 @09:36PM (#50973143)

    Sorry for the lengthy post but I've been following this very closely since is started and the media account has been highly misleading so far.

    Basically this is largely a controversy involving two companies, BalancePlus (BP), a long established broom manufacturer, and Hardline (HL), a company that's been around for about 5 years and is built around their broom.

    Both companies sponsor teams, that's the major way they market equipment since brush effectiveness is really hard to evaluate, so often the only way a club curler will trust a broom is if they know elite curlers are using it.

    Hardline's broom was a big step technologically. There's a number of nice features but a couple are the fact it's very light (you can sweep a lot faster), and instead of sweeping with a woven fabric there's a diamond pattern applied to the fabric that seals it against moisture (brooms become less effective when they're wet).

    Now no one really heard much of Hardline for the first few years but then last year they sponsored some of the top young teams and a couple of those teams had breakthrough seasons and started winning a lot. It could just be because they were young teams poised for a breakthrough, or it could be because the brooms gave them a huge advantage. Either way a lot of elite curlers started looking at the brooms and thinking they were really good, some decided to try getting Hardline sponsorship, some pushed their own sponsors to design comparable brooms, and others may have started thinking the brooms were too effective and were detracting from the skill of the game.

    Now jump to October of this year and people are suddenly talking about a players meeting that happened in Toronto and some agreement among top curlers. Eventually over the next week the news starts leaking out. There was a big World Curling Tour event with a lot of the top teams including those sponsored by both BalancePlus (BP) and Hardline (HL). The BP teams came with a special kind brush that was doing ridiculous things, they could make a rock that would normally curl 6 feet one way fall 4 feet the other way [youtube.com], or make a draw run completely straight [youtube.com], the brooms also destroyed the ice in the process. Everyone present could see that whatever they were using shouldn't be allowed in the sport. Either way the BP teams said they'd stop using their brooms if the HL teams stopped using theirs.

    BP then released a statement talking about how they'd been told the HL brooms were doing unnatural things to the rocks, so they investigated and found they used "directional fabric" (no one know what this means). So BP says they did this stunt to show that if they really wanted they could make a broom so effective it would wreck the sport but that they really felt that no one should use directional fabric (this was mixed in with all sorts of shots at the HL broom).

    So within a week of this event there was an agreement that the HL sponsored teams would flip their brushing material inside out (it's just a cover with ordinary fabric on the underside). If the diamond pattern was "directional fabric" they'd just have an ordinary fabric. Of course they kept on winning and so people decided it must be something else. This seems to the motivation behind the World Curling Federation ruling that bans the texturing HL used on their fabric (supposedly the "directional fabric") and some other extra modifications to make the brush head firmer.

    Here's the problem, there's absolutely no actual evidence that's been presented that the HL brooms are any different than other brushes, the only thing BP released is the two videos of their own demo brooms doing unnatural things. No one has ever shown HL brooms doing the same (and there's a lot of people who have them). In fact they only actual test I've heard of involved two teams trying to sort it out by testing with both brooms at some event. The test finished with both brushes perfor

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