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Author Topic: Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?  (Read 7481 times)

MALCOLM FOWLER

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Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« on: 16/10/2011 00:30:02 »
MALCOLM FOWLER  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Chris,

One question that has puzzled me for ages that I can't find the answer to

It's a fairly safe bet that in the Olympic 100m final in London next year all the runners will be black and in the vast majority of swimming finals all the swimmers will be white.  Why is this?

Is it that black athletes have a genetic advantage that makes them better sprinters and white athletes have a genetic advantage that makes them better swimmers?  or is there some other reason?

Best Wishes

Malcolm Fowler

Macclesfield, Cheshire

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 16/10/2011 00:30:02 by _system »


 

Offline grizelda

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Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« Reply #1 on: 16/10/2011 03:17:00 »
Probably the utility of chasing animals over long distances has diminished in favor of other strategies since humans left Africa. It's likely that other continents have more lakes safe to swim in than can be found in Africa. I liked the book "Guns, germs and steel" for its theory that geography is destiny.
 

Offline Dimz

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Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« Reply #2 on: 16/10/2011 07:38:20 »
Along with the Genetics of some people, the regions they live in can affect their performance too. Of course some people will have different genes that might work well in their favour, but to what extent that matters in a race I'm not sure.

Anyways, as I was saying, people from mountainous regions of Kenya live in areas quite high up, so there is less oxygen for them to breathe in. Because of this, their bodies produce a hormone called Erythropoietin in large concentrations, which in turns up-regulates Erythropoiesis, which is the production of red blood cells. The body makes more red blood cells so that it can carry as much oxygen as possible from each breath, as there is less oxygen in the lung, and red cells aren't saturated as easily by oxygen.

Because of this, Kenyans and other people from mountainous regions then come to athletic events at levels closer to sea level, and the oxygen concentration is a lot higher. Their bodies have a lot of red blood cells in them, so their red blood cells are heavily saturated, and they turn over a lot more oxygen than somebody who done the exact same exercise regime at sea level. Because of this, they are at an advantage over some other people because of the region they live in.

Athletes today sometimes do something called "live high, train low", which means they live their everyday life high up, to stimulate the release of Erythropoietin, then train low to simulate the conditions of an athletic event. However, I'd suspect that a family living in a mountainous area may have genes that are more suited to 'making do' with little oxygen, so it's entirely possible that genes may play a role.

This is just a single example by the way, there are many more like it.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« Reply #3 on: 16/10/2011 09:17:44 »
Where I live I have noticed that there is a complete absence of public areas for recreation using any kind of ball. I am not exaggerating, the nearest football ground to me is 7km away and is private.   I live in Luxembourg and if anyone knows a little about football then you will know that Luxembourg does not perform particularly well when it comes to this sport. 

I am guessing that in European countries there exists more swimming pools then in African countries.  Both private pools and more importantly public pools.  In Britain swimming is an important part of the school curriculum in sports and is encouraged and supported by a well organised network.  If you want to go for a kick about or have a game of cricket in the UK all you have to do is go for a short walk, ten minutes at the most, and you will find a park where you can do these things.

I would not be surprised that if there were more pools for swimming in Africa and the infrastructure was there to promote and support there use, as in the UK, you might find a situation very similar to that of track and field events currently.
 

Offline CZARCAR

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Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« Reply #4 on: 16/10/2011 15:46:55 »
blacks have longer limbs, whites have bulkier torso & shorter limbs- both evolved to cope with climate
 

Offline Supercryptid

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Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« Reply #5 on: 17/10/2011 08:56:08 »
I once read an article about this. I believe that genetics was not shown to have a strong correlation to the events that various races participated in. Instead, I believe that culture was the stronger influencing factor. Within different cultures, different forms of activity are glorified when compared to others. Parents push their children to join in sports that are popular in their region. Their peers likely increase this pressure.

In the end, that means that more people of that particular culture are raised and trained to be a part of a particular sporting event. If the people "back home" see that their race is the larger part of a particular sporting event, I can imagine this becoming a part of a positive feedback loop. More whites in a particular sport = more popular with whites = white children pushed harder to become a part of it = even more whites in that sport.

This is true not only for sports, but pretty much any part of society. Humans are sheep at heart, it seems. We like to be around those who are like us.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« Reply #6 on: 08/02/2012 15:30:32 »
Africans have very high genetic diversity which increases the chances that at least some of them will be good. Mixed race individuals can have even higher heterozygosity though, so it's not simply only about being African.
 

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Re: Are black athletes at a genetic advantage?
« Reply #6 on: 08/02/2012 15:30:32 »

 

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