A number of journalists, experts, academics, and other contributors chimed in last week as Jamaica's Usain Bolt dominated the track world with 3 gold medals 3 world records, as a ton of electrons and ink discussed his Beijing Olympics performance and antics. Here are some of the candidates for performance enhancement:
1. Diet: Chicken nuggets, and yams. (The Mirror)
He said: "I woke around 11am and decided to watch some TV and had some nuggets.
"Then I slept for a couple of hours more. Then I got some more nuggets and came to the track." Bolt's diet is typical of his laidback attitude summed up by the slogan on his nation's yellow and green strip that reads "Jamaica - No Problem."
Bolt's father gave credit to a childhood diet of yams. However, Coed magazine says Bolt enjoys a Red Bull and a beer too.
2. Environment: Train at home (Jamaica) and do not train in the stinking corrupt USA. The Jamaican Gleaner.
GOOD HOME training - like good home cooking - never hurt anyone. And veteran track coach Dennis 'DJ' Johnson believes that developing track talent in Jamaica is the main reason for the country's remarkable showing at the Beijing Olympics.
Most of Jamaica's successful track athletes at the , including triple gold medallist Usain Bolt, train locally. At previous Games, that was not the case; many athletes came up through the college circuit in the United States.
"Here, they have better instruction, we have resources, sponsors," Johnson told The Sunday Gleaner. "The most important thing is, they're home where they're comfortable."
So BALCO shut down those nasty US colleges (no one ever reported BALCO supplied drugs to NCAA athletes). (Also note Merlene Ottey tested positive for non-BALCO steroids). Furthermore, MVP trains athletes outside of Jamaica.
Some of Jamaica's greatest athletes, including Herb McKenley, Donald Quarrie, Bertland Cameron, Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert, Grace Jackson and Deon Hemmings, came up through the competitive US college ranks.
But, Johnson pointed out, the stench of drugs in American athletics has alienated sponsors and administrators in that country.
"Track and field in the (United) States is not what it used to be. The drug thing has scared a lot of the colleges," Johnson said...
Traditional track powerhouses like San José State (Johnson's alma mater), University of Oregon, University of Nebraska (Ottey's old school) and New York Tech have either shut down or scaled back their programmes in the aftermath of the BALCO drug scandal that resulted in bans for high-profile athletes like Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.
3. Doping: Speaking of BALCO, Victor Conte suspects something fishy in those Island runners:
On December 12, 2007, I advised WADA's Dick Pound to routinely send disguised drug testers to Jamaica, and to begin doing so immediately. I had received information about a specific drug supplier - WADA received this person's name, address and phone number - who was allegedly working with elite track athletes. I also explained to Pound the importance of "offseason" testing and that testing at competitions is ineffective. The offseason is when athletes use anabolic steroids in conjunction with intensive weight training and develop the explosive strength base that serves them throughout the competitive season.
Bolt and the Jamaicans claim (complained) they have been extensively drug tested...at the Olympics Games. Note that Jamaica didn't have national drug agency until days ago.
(More on the Jamaican Need for Speed after the jump: Genetics, Slavery, and Choice of sport. However we would note that the doping controversy will continue until the IAAF and the IOC actually schedule the tests (including random off-season testing), then publish the results for all competitors..which won't eliminate the untestable drugs like HGH)
4. Genetics: Some writers look toward genetics. A professor from Jamaica points toward a gene the press calls 'actinin' (sic) which reproduces in abundance on the island.
Over the years, researchers tested over 200 Jamaican athletes, and found that 70 per cent of them have Actinen A in their fast-twitch muscle fibres, those which help men like Asafa Powell or Usain Bolt run like lightning.
- However 'Genetic Future' authored by a real geneticist, says that DNA hogwash. The real gene is ACTN3
At this point I probably should confess to having a more than casual interest in this story: I was one of the authors on the first study showing an association between this gene and elite athlete status back in 2003, and this gene has been the central focus of my research for a good part of the last six years. (The opinions I express here are purely my own, by the way, and in no way are meant to represent the views of my research institute.)
The ACTN3 gene encodes a protein called α-actinin-3 ("Actinen A" is a misnomer of uncertain origin propagated by lazy reporters), which is found within the fast fibres of muscle - the cells that are required for generating rapid, forceful contraction in activities such as sprinting and weightlifting. Interestingly, the human ACTN3 gene comes in two forms in the general population: there's a normal, functional version called 577R, and a "defective" version called 577X, which contains a single base change that prevents the production of α-actinin-3. People who have two copies of the 577X version (I'll refer to them as X/X) produce absolutely no α-actinin-3 in their fast muscle fibres.
And three reasons why this conclusion is false:
- The difference in frequency between Jamaicans and Europeans is not as great as it would appear. ..it's 98% in Jamaicans compared to about 82% in Europeans. In other words, in both populations a sizeable majority of individuals have an ACTN3 status compatible with elite sprint performance.
- The ACTN3 frequency reported for the Jamaicans by Morrison is not unique to Jamaicans... There's simply no clear relationship between the frequency of this variant in a population and its capacity to produce sprinting superstars.
- Finally, when Usain Bolt was pacing restlessly at the starting line of the 100 metre sprint - even in the very first round of Olympic heats - the very low frequency of X/X individuals among Olympic sprinters means he was lined up against a group of athletes who almost certainly all express α-actinin-3!
5. Training: Is the Jamaican training superior or maybe the equipment? Not really says the CSM:
By US standards, the training facilities are second class. Jamaica's top sprinters cram into UTECH's tiny gym to pump rusty weights, and they often practice on the school's basic grass track.
"We have to be creative, because we don't have the resources," says Davis, explaining that the lanes of the track are marked with diesel and burned because the school can't afford the machine that lays down chalk lines every week or so. "We had a choice: complain about the resources and do nothing or work with what we have."
Maybe every one should start training on crappy grass tracks, and with rusty old weights?
6. History of slavery: Dr. Herrb Elliot, Jamaica's main man in medicine says slavery is the key (Josh Peters at Yahoo):
Jamaica’s Olympic team doctor, who’s prepared to fend off accusations that banned drugs fueled the country’s sprinting success at these Olympic Games, said the record-breaking run stems in part from the history of slavery.
Herb Elliott, who oversees drug testing in Jamaica and serves as the Olympic team’s head doctor, said African slaves who ended up in Jamaica were among the strongest and most determined – qualities, he says, that have helped the likes of Usain Bolt, the 22-year-old Jamaican track star...
“They say that our aggression, our toughness, came out of our slave situation,” said Elliott, who is black. The team doctor said he subscribes to the view “considering that Jamaica had more slavery rebellion than any country in the world.”
- Not so fast says another academic:
Though Jamaica’s ties to achievements on the track is indisputable, Evelyn Higginbotham, a professor of African-American studies at Harvard University and a civil rights activist, said Elliott’s theory regarding slavery has no basis in fact.
“On many levels it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Slavery is not unique to black people historically.”
7. Focus on track: If Bolt were in America he would be in an NFL uniform not a track (Peters again)
Bolt grew up playing cricket and turned his attention to track when he realized he was the fastest boy in his grade school in rural Jamaica. His personal story supports the views of Diana Thorburn, a professor at the University of the West Indies, who cited the dearth of athletic options in Jamaica.
“If Usain Bolt were born in North America or Europe, he would be now earning far more money as a professional basketball player with the odds of a much longer and more lucrative career,” she wrote in an email.
A combination of factors..ah perhaps a reasoned voice, found here: The Jamaican Observer looks at the multi-factorial approach to sprinting success.
The controversy will continue, especially if Jamaica lies outside a rigorous off-seasons testing program (compared with Great Britain). If Bolt can continue his world domination, and if the Jamaicans can bring themselves into line with modern doping control, more believers will surface. Until then we will get a steady diet of yams, stupid US colleges, slavery, grass tracks and rusty weights, and word wars on blogs.