The IOF has installed new rules that permit the use of GPS watches during events ©IOF

The International Orienteering Federation (IOF) has changed its rules to allow the use of global positioning system (GPS) watches during events.

Previously, it was forbidden to carry devices which feature an electronic display at major and world ranking competitions.

This was due to fears they could be used to hand an advantage to competitors.

Updated competition rules will now come into force from January, with a new wording of the equipment rule opening up the possibility of wearing GPS devices.

There will be a condition that they "will be of no help during the competition".

"GPS-enabled devices can be carried provided that they have no map display and are not used for navigation purposes", is the new wording.

However, organisers will still have the right to specifically forbid the use of such equipment if there are particular reasons why that is necessary.

The laws have been amended after athletes stated they wanted the ability to track their routes ©IOF
The laws have been amended after athletes stated they wanted the ability to track their routes ©IOF

David Rosen, chairperson of the IOF Rules Commission, explained that many athletes are keen to wear their GPS watches in order to record their routes with the rule change now allowing them to do so.

"A large proportion of athletes like to wear their GPS watches while they are competing," said Rosen.

"We know that this is purely so that they can analyse their route after the race and not for navigating during the race.

"The previous wording did not allow GPS devices to be worn if they have a display.

"In fact, most GPS watches do have a display, but provided that they cannot display a map, they can be of little or no help for navigation. 

"The athletes have been quite good in respecting the rule up to now, but the Athletes’ Commissions have suggested that it is now time to relax the rule a little, which the new wording is a result of."