With the start of XCR15 just around the corner, it is important that officials understand the role of the electronic chip or transponder.

Athletics Victoria has been using transponders, attached to the athletes’ shoes, during the XCR season for a few years now. They are very common now in fun runs and triathlons. Interestingly, fun runs eg Mothers Day Classic and Run 4 the Kids, now use a disposable transponder attached to the competitor’s bib number.

The question that is often asked, does the transponder ‘place’ the athletes or merely record a time? And this is where the MYTH surfaces!

IAAF Rules 165.24 and 165.25 – Transponder System

Transponder systems may be used for out of stadia events eg race walking not held completely in a stadium, road races and cross country. These rules very clearly indicate a few important things that need to be observed:

  1. The equipment can’t be a barrier or impede the progress of an athlete
  2. The weight of the transponder is not significant
  3. The system is started by the Starter’s gun or synchronised with a start signal
  4. Times are rounded to the next longer whole second

AND 165.24 (f) Whilst determination of the finishing order and times may be considered official, Rules 164.2 and 165.2 may be applied where necessary. It is recommended that judges and/or video recording are provided to assist in determining the finishing order. This becomes critical especially with transponders attached to an athlete’s shoe.

Both IAAF Rules 164.2 and 165.2 refer to athletes being placed in order and timed when any part of their bodies (ie torso, as distinguished from the head, neck, arms, legs, hands or feet) reaches the vertical plane of the nearer edge of the finish line. Whether on the track or out at Cross Country, these rules apply to all races.

At present, athletes who compete in XCR have their transponder attached to their shoe. It is quite possible that their foot may cross the finish line ahead of their chest. This is where the confusion lies. The athlete may receive one finishing order from the transponder recorder, but actually be placed in another finishing order, according to rule 164.2, in the official results. Rule 164.2 will always prevail!

With the refinement of transponder systems and the advent of disposable transponders attached to competitor bib numbers, the instances of the situation described above is significantly reduced. As long as the athlete wears the bib on their chest, their place and time should be very accurate.

Finally, just with a Photo Finish system, a Chief Transponder Timing Judge should be appointed. This person takes responsibility for the functioning of the system and has similar responsibilities to a Photo Finish Chief Judge