I well recall sending for a pair of Onitsuka Tiger running shoes by mail order more than 40 years ago. The must-have lightweight road-racing shoe of the day seemed to promise a few seconds trimmed from one's best times. It was well short of steroids, just an attempt to get a wee edge.

Now, however, technological steroids are ruining sport. Developments designed to help man reach the moon and the stars have been adopted for commercial gain, putting some sports beyond the reach of all. Some, it's suggested, increase injury risk. They certainly devalue skill and athleticism, and eliminate comparison between the champions of different generations.

Athletics has changed hugely. Tracks may still be 400 metres, but are all-weather, not ash. Firmness and bounce can be tailored to suit sprinters or endurance runners. There's a legal margin beyond which designers may not go. Spikes bear no resemblance.

Javelin specification was altered so we can no longer compare throwers of today with yesteryear. Some of a certain age consider the fibreglass vaulting pole an abomination. Who is to say those using aluminium may not have been as good as current world record-holder Sergy Bubka?

Golf courses have had to be redesigned, emasculated by shafts of carbon fibre and titanium, by club heads which reward shots which should be punished.

Hazards on all but the newest courses are now in the wrong places. Elsewhere, tees are dragged back and relocated. I'd love to know how much better a player is Tiger Woods than Tom Morris. We'd have a clue if course and equipment were the same.

Likewise tennis. Exit the artist, enter the freak. The skill of such as Ilie Nastase and Ken Rosewall is redundant in this power-obsessed era of serve-and-volley.

The 1974 Wimbledon final between Jimmy Connors (steel racket) and Rosewall (wood) marked the end for the latter. Enter graphite, titanium, hyper-carbon, bigger heads, and 140mph serves. And if you are 6ft 5in, so much the better.

The LZR swimsuit, designed with help from NASA at a cost of £2m, is sanctioned by the world body despite being outwith the range of all but internationalists on lottery funding (they cost up to $550 each).

Every tadpole in every club will be asking mum and dad for one. Don't be surprised by an exodus of youngsters whose folks can't afford them. Little wonder tennis and golf remain middle-class preserves.

If international sport bodies wish to promote their game they'd reject seductive advances of sports goods conglomerates, reframe the rules and get back to affordable basics. It would also end the annual debate about heavier balls at Wimbledon. Perhaps the Greeks had it right with barefoot, naked Olympic competitors.

Boot technology may have much to answer for. Blades grip the surface better than studs but exert greater force on knees and ankles. Boots weighing less than carpet slippers afford minimal protection, so have been blamed for the proliferation of ligament and metatarsal injuries.

So, too, in rugby. Traditional boots protected and supported the ankle, but lower-profile boots preferred by many players leave the ankle exposed.

Blades were banned by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. The first time Wayne Rooney wore a new boot in a competitive fixture, he accidentally caused John Terry to have 10 stitches inserted in a leg injury. He himself left the ground on crutches with a fractured metatarsal.

Medical and biomechanical experts have criticised modern boot design. The adidas Predator was tweaked in 2004 to give greater metatarsal protection. The boot is now in its eighth generation.

Commercial rewards for regular redesign are huge. Every kid wants the latest boots and strips. This is about corporate profit, not player welfare. We look forward to the first club suing boot manufacturers for their contribution to writing off a multi-million asset. Maybe even kids suing players for endorsing boots which cause injury.

Greg McLatchie is a consultant surgeon in Hartlepool NHS Trust and professor of sports medicine at the University of Sunderland. For five years he was director of the National Sports Medicine Institute.

Born in Thornhill, he's author of several books. Researching his next (with professor Sir Muir Gray, principal knowledge officer of the NHS) on touchline medicine, they are exploring equipment's potential contribution to injuries.

"It's my impression that there is a greater incidence of foot and ligament damage, particularly cruciate ligament injury," said Professor McLatchie yesterday. "New-style equipment affords improved performance and stability but perhaps does not confer as many benefits as it removes.

"The foot-ground interface is improved but when the foot is planted, the knee's momentum continues. This may be more true in the case of tightly-woven artificial surfaces, which are also well known for causing friction burns."

Even more douce sports are modified. Aficionados say a narrower bowls bias reduces the game to little more than skittles. The sweeping draw risks becoming marginalised by bowls which run almost straight.

But like golf's game improvement equipment' there is public demand.

Sports people want to improve. But they want to microwave it, without acquiring skills by years of practice, rigorous training and sacrifice. It's the difference between the art of dry-fly fishing, compared to trolling with a high-tech lure.

Is any of this different from using performance-enhancing drugs?

The price of progress is what we leave behind.