Saturday, December 06, 2008

Latest ITTF discussion on boosters/tuners

Here is a very very useful discussion on the ITTF's Adham Shahara regarding booster/tuners, copied from a table tennis forum. It highlights exactly when and to some extent why a booster/tuner is illegal... it does also highlight that the manufacturers can do some things that are perfectly legal, but when players do exactly the same, they are cheating...

The Question:
I'm sorry to keep questioning this, but I'm still unconvinced of the explanation ragarding boosters/tuners:

1. Lets assume we have a VOC-free poison-free booster. The factory glues an ITTF approved topsheet onto a sponge. Now the factory uses a booster on the SPONGE ONLY. Now according to all evidence I've seen, the ONLY effect that the booster has on the TOPSHEET is that it stretches it, which according to you is legal when done in the factory (within ITTF set limits). Sponges are already made with the use of chemical, and are also glued to the topsheet using VOC-based chemical, so the booster is simply part of this factory process. The rubber is aired properly before sold to the public. Legal rubber or not?

2. Lets assume we have a VOC-free poison-free booster. The factory uses a booster on the sponge, BEFORE it's glued onto an ITTF approved topsheet. The rubber is aired properly before sold to the public. Legal rubber or not?

3. A distributor buys a cheap ITTF approved topsheet and a sponge, and applies either on the the methods (1. or 2.) above. This turns a cheap chinese topsheet and sponge combination into a rubber of similar performance to the top-end Tensor style rubber. The rubber is aired properly before sold to the public. Legal or not?

4. A player buys a cheap topsheet and sponge, and applies either on the the methods (1. or 2.) above. This turns his cheap chinese topsheet and sponge combination into a rubber of similar performance to the top-end Tensor style rubber. Legal or not?

Please understand I have no problem in accepting your speed glue ban, for health reasons. I also would have no problem in accepting the booster/tuner ban if you gave us a reason why, since the health issue is not proven.

If you said it was in order to slow the game down, I would accept that as a valid reason, even if I didn't agree with it...
The bit I'm not happy with is that the ITTF trying to justify the banning of tuners/booster, by saying that they are already against existing rules... this is a means of banning them, not a reason... I hope you can see the difference...

Adham Shahara's answer:
In order to answer your 4 scenarios, first I will explain clearly the rule:
- Any post-factory alteration of the equipment (in this case racket covering) is NOT legal. By post-factory, we mean at the distributor level, at the retail level, at the player level, at the reseller level, etc.
- VOC-containing glues are used at the factory level for several applications (gluing the rubber to the sponge, gluing the wood plies to make the racket, etc.). The factory must follow the rules of their government as it relates to VOCs (very strict in Japan, Canada, Germany,etc, but rather lax in China, India, Russia, etc.). In any case, the ITTF advices the factories to air and ventilate the equipment (rackets and racket coverings in this case) using special ventilated racks, which usually eliminate all VOCs (or almost all).
So now, you could answer your questions yourself:

1. Legal (at factory, no VOCs, no poison, properly aired, stretched within limits).
2. Legal (same as above, if I understood correctly)
3. Post factory, not legal
4. Post factory, not legal

The above is according to the current rules (if I understood the scenarios correctly).

I understand your position about VOC-glues. Regarding the so-called vegetable-based tuners and boosters that are free of VOC and poison, I really do not see any harm in accepting them. But what I keep repeating is that according to our current rules they are "illegal" because they alter the racket covering. This is NOT according to our rules and never was. Rule 2.4 is clear about the composition of the racket, but since some felt it was not clear enough, rule 2.4.7 was proposed by those that sought further clarity. This makes any type of additive, whether healthy or not, illegal. Now let's talk practically. Is it detectable? Probably not, unless it makes the rubber bulge too much and exceeds 4mm, or if it makes the rubber bulge and the surface is not flat. So as you can see it may cause 2 infractions to the current rules. I anticipate your next question: suppose I use VOC-free, non-poisonous, vegetable based substance on the sponge, and the total thickness of the racket covering does not exceed 4mm, and the surface is flat, is it legal or illegal? The answer is it is still illegal because you are not supposed to have any additives according to 2.4 (not part of the composition of the racket) post-factory, but would be totally acceptable, because no apparent rule would be violated. In fact, this could be the future direction, but the question is, would you still have the same effect? Less than 4mm thick, surface flat (no bulge or dome), would there be any reason to do this?

Please believe that the rules are not purposely intended to slow down the game. The speed of the game depends on the players. Sure, a side effect of the 40mm ball and the VOC-free glue, and the booster and tuner ban does make the game slower. But speed is not really the issue. You could get more speed by making the blades faster to compensate in the loss of speed. In fact, my recommendation to the top players and to the manufacturers is to always look at the racket as a whole: blade wood type, blade weight, blade distribution of weight, sponge type and thickness and rubber type. The sum of the total combination of all those elements is what should give the player the amount of speed he/she desires, the amount of friction (spin) they desire, and the amount of "feel" they desire.

I hope I answered your questions, I am not trying to convince you, just trying to explain.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Some very useful web pages

Over the years I've collected a lot of links to websites or pages, that I find very useful. Below I've listed a few that others might find useful too.

Table tennis wiki - table tennis has quite a comprehensive page on the wiki, with a great summary of most aspects of our sport.

Martinspin videos - A great and well organised site for table tennis videos, totally free!

Sponge hardness measurement table - Since all manufacturers seem to use a difference scale for specifying the hardness of the sponge of your rubber, this website has measurement from a range of different brands, allowing you to compare between them... updated regularly.

Sponge weight measurement table - We all know that the weight of a rubber can significantly change the balance of a bat, as it accounts for roughly half the weight of a bat. This table catagorises the weight of wide range of rubbers of different brands.... updated regularly.

Table tennis manufacturers - Are you interested to know more about the different table tennis manufacturers, and some of the best products they make? Check out these web pages for more information... further details added regularly.

I will list some more great sites/pages soon. If you know of some other great sites or pages, please let me know, cheers!