Angier`s Wager and the Olympics

Natalie Angier recently wrote a major article
in The New York Times proving that the
races don`t really differ genetically. []

Although watching the Olympic track &
field competition is guaranteed to shake your
faith in Ms. Angier, just repeat to yourself,
"Who am I going to believe: The Newspaper
of Record or my lying eyes?"

So, for all of you who trust the Times
utterly, maybe you should stop reading here. Why
don`t you go check the TV to make sure you`re
not missing West Wing? Bye-bye!

Okay, now that we`ve shed all the PC dweebs,
let`s get down to the facts. The men`s 100-meter
dash might be the world`s most widely contested
sporting event. Although the majority of humans
never even try most sports, practically every
boy on earth soon finds out whether he has any
talent for sprinting. Back in 1896 the Olympic
men`s 100m final, the race to determine The
Fastest Man on Earth, started out as an
all-white affair. Increasing equality of
opportunity, however, lead to increasing
equality of results. By the 1932 Olympics, the
six finalists consisted of three whites, two
blacks, and an East Asian.

Then, however, equality of opportunity kept
on growing and equality of results … well,
vanished. This year, for the fifth consecutive
Olympics, the eight men who reached the finals
of the Olympic 100m were all of predominantly
West African origin. They came from the U.S.,
Britain, Jamaica, Ghana, Barbados, Trinidad,
even St. Kitt`s & Nevis, wherever that is.
But they were all black.

People of primarily West African descent
constitute roughly 7.5% of the world`s
population. But, beginning with the 1984 Games,
forty men have made it to the Olympic finals –
and all 40 have been blacks from West Africa or
its Diaspora. What is the likelihood of this
happening by chance? Here is the probability:


That`s a "one" with 44
"zeroes" in front of it.

Ms. Angier might reply that discrimination
keeps a black youth out of more desirable
professions such as engineering or accounting,
forcing him to become the World`s Fastest Man
and endure all that adulation from Swedish track

But why aren`t the races equal at the
different races? In other words, why do blacks
of West African descent specialize in the
sprints rather than other lengths? Why do they
rule from 100m to 400m, are competitive at 800m,
marginal at 1500m, and then disappear at the
longer races?

And if genes don`t differ, just social
environment, why don`t poor blacks end up in the
most grueling events? Instead, in America whites
and Mexican-Americans dominate the distance
events, which require endless roadwork. In
contrast, African-Americans monopolize the
sprints, which call for the shortest workweek of
any major sport.

For example, while preparing to win four gold
medals in the Los Angeles Olympics, Carl Lewis
worked out an average of eight hours per week
(not per day – per week!) Nor does poverty
explain the career of the 1996 Olympic 100m gold
medallist, the Jamaican-born Canadian Donovan
Bailey, who didn`t get serious about sprinting
until he`d made so much money as a stockbroker
that he`d already bought himself a house and a
Porsche – for cash.

As tennis great Arthur Ashe observed,
"Fast runners are born, not made."

Many years ago, George Orwell warned,
"To see what is in front of one`s nose
needs a constant struggle." Throughout the
Olympics, the truth about racial differences
will be right in front of your nose.

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

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September 27, 2000