Of the top 9 100m sprinters ever, all are black and six are from Jamaica. What makes certain populations of blacks excel at sprinting? Historical white cruelty says the UK Daily Mail.
Johnson, however, is unabashed: ‘It is a taboo subject in the States, but it is what it is,’ he says. ‘Why shouldn’t we discuss it?’
Usain Bolt holds similar beliefs. The sprinter was born in Trelawny Parish, a Jamaican area that was formerly the site of several slave plantations.
Asked about his record-breaking 100m performance in 2009, he said: ‘It’s a background from slavery. The guys back in the day were so strong from physical work . . . the genes are really strong.’
The controversial theory supporting these claims goes back to 2003, when Australian scientists discovered that a gene called ACTN3 has variants which may give performance advantage to the muscles of elite athletes.
In effect, it can give sprinters a boost because it gives extra power to muscle cells that are required for fast, forceful actions. Studies show that this ‘sprint’ version of the ACTN3 gene is more common in Jamaicans, for example, and others of West African descent than in people of European ancestry.
Michael Johnson is presenting ‘Survival of the Fastest’ programme on Channel 4 on July 5
Controversial: Michael Johnson is presenting his ‘Survival of the Fastest’ programme on Channel 4 on July 5
The theory speculates that this gene has been concentrated in these athletes because their ancestors journeyed from captivity in West Africa to slavery in the Caribbean under brutal conditions.