Pompey’s Miracle “Ionized Shirt” Technology: Scientific Breakthrough or Futuristic Doping?

Steroids, miracle remedies and performance pills begone! The latest innovation in the doping technology (even though it remains perfectly legal, for now) are “ionized shirts”.

Developed by New Zealand kit firm Canterbury, the new ‘IonX’ shirts are made from a fabric that “contains a negatively charged electromagnetic field”. This means the process of ionisation, which produces electrically charged atoms long understood by former Eastern Block scientists to improve sporting performance, can occur in the body during training and even competitive matches.

Ionized 'IonX' Shirts - How it works

According to the latest studies carried out by Professor Mike Caine, the head of the department of Sports technology and innovation in Loughborough, England, the new shirts would allow for “a small but significant improvement (2.7%) to repeated power output during high intensity exercise“. Whether that effectively translates into a better performance onto the soccer field (such as being able to strike shots with increased power for example), that remains entirely to be seen, despite the optimism of Joe Middleton, chief executive of Canterbury UK: “With this kit elite athletes can recover more quickly between training sessions and probably train half a day earlier. That’s the feedback we’re getting from these guys. So, it’s big“. For an even bigger sales pitch, you can check out their advertisement video.

Portsmouth FCThe shirts have already been tested in the Rugby world, by the likes of South Africa, Australia and Scotland prior to the Rugby World Cup. Australian olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe was the first to utilize the ionizing technology on his “shark-skin” swimsuit, during swimming competitions. As for the latest “guinea pig” of the innovative shirts: English Premier League club Porstmouth FC, who are so excited at the results they have done a deal preventing other EPL sides from using IonX for ‘the immediate future’ (thought to be several seasons).

So is this legal?

WADA - World Anti-Doping AgencyAfter their adoption by the South Africa, Australia and Scotland rugby teams, several other countries (believed to include England and France) sought clarification over the legality of IonX. The International Rugby Board asked the World Anti-Doping Agency for a ruling, who replied that they were happy — for now. Spokesman Frederic Donze said: “Since there is no scientific publication supporting claims that changes in the body ion charges or magnetic field distribution enhance performance, and since such technologies do not contain prohibited substances, these technologies should not be considered as a banned method to date“.

Ancient History

World War II - Bomber PilotsAccording to the article published in the Daily Mail, this “ionized shirts” science has been known for centuries, and been extensively studied during World War II in particular. The Japanese long ago realised that standing next to a waterfall, where ionisation also occurs, makes people feel better and German scientists in the 1930s used ionisation chambers to train bomber pilots to stay awake longer and be more alert. That technology was then applied to athletes in the former East Germany and Soviet Union.

It took an American textile company, who made protective suits for the Chernobyl clean-up operation, to work out how to incorporate the technology into fabric. Canterbury have a 25-year agreement with that firm.

If you’re still skeptical, have a look at BBC News 24’s report on IonX Rugby shirts.

Marco Pantanella writes for the mCalcio blog

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  1. John 10 December, 2007
  2. Tripp 11 December, 2007