Race Differences in Sporting Achievement

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens

Race Differences in Sporting Achievement

Frank Ellis considers a compelling analysis

Subjected to different evolutionary pressures because they emerged in different parts of the world, racial groups demonstrate superior and inferior levels of attainment in various sporting endeavours. Such is the straightforward premise on which Race and Sport is based. In an earlier age, one that was not encumbered by neo-Marxism, this would have been accepted as an empirically demonstrable and rational proposition. These days the view that races differ in athletic and sporting ability (and much else besides) because of genes and evolutionary selection pressures, despite huge amounts of evidence some of which is marshalled by Dutton and Lynn, is enough to attract the standard accusations of racism. The problem for the politically-correct left is that once it is conceded publicly and not just behind the scenes that genes play a huge role in sporting achievement it opens the way publicly and openly to discuss racial differences and IQ. Thus the discussion of any differences even when blacks demonstrate superior ability to non-blacks is to be suppressed and censored.

Having grappled with terms such as race and sport, and in the process adhering to a strictly Occamist position so avoiding all forms of ad hoc and largely implausible explanations, the authors then begin their grand tour of sports and the impact of evolution. Race is discussed but no definition per se is provided. The best one I have so far encountered is that offered by Arthur Jensen in The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability (1998). Jensen’s starting point is that race is a fuzzy set: ‘That is to say, a race is one of a number of statistically distinguishable groups in which individual membership is not mutually exclusive by any single criterion, and individuals in a given group differ only statistically from one another and from the group’s central tendency on each of the many imperfectly correlated genetically characteristics that distinguish between groups as such. The important point is that the average difference on all of these characteristics that differ among individuals within the group is less than the average difference between the groups on these genetic characteristics’ (Jensen, p.425, emphasis in the original).

Anyone who has taken an interest in middle and long distance running in the Olympics and other championships will have noticed the dominance of black athletes from East Africa and those descended from East Africans. This dominance is so overwhelming that it requires an explanation. However, the approach of BBC sports commentators to this question is to pretend that it does not exist so as to avoid having to make any forays into politically incorrect areas such as genes, evolution and Africa. We are expected to take it for granted that a Somali, Mohamed Farah, who runs under a British flag, just happens to be an outstanding middle distance runner. On the question of the national allegiance, it is interesting to recall the racist hatred levelled by the left at Zola Budd, the white South African, who, reflagged as British, ran in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and to compare it with the adulation reserved for black Africans, such as Mohamed Farah and others, who have managed to secure British citizenship.

Dutton and Lynn do not dodge the issue of black dominance in running. The data they cite are obvious and explain quite clearly and as parsimoniously as possible the reasons why West African blacks and those with that biological ancestry are so dominant in sprinting and why East African blacks and those with that biological ancestry are so dominant in middle and long distance running. Dutton and Lynn also quite rightly make much of the fact that a gene, the Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) rs 1815739, which is located in the gene ACTN3 has been shown to influence sprinting performance. Thus among West Africans the frequency of this gene is 89%, 57% among Asians and Europeans and 47% among North American Indians. The BBC will never report these findings.

Clear racial differences also emerge in all other sports and many of them are examined by Dutton and Lynn: swimming, skiing, wrestling, boxing (and other combat sports), gymnastics, football, rugby, tennis, badminton and squash. The clear finding that emerges in this survey of sports and pastimes is that whites are superb all-round athletes. They may not be absolutely dominant in all sports but they put in very creditable performances even in areas where blacks dominate, whereas the range of black excellence is much narrower. The other fundamental difference between whites and others is that the world’s most popular sports and games were invented and codified by whites.

I detect an inconsistency in the Dutton and Lynn analysis of shot put. Female records for the shot, especially those achieved by Communist bloc athletes, are dismissed as unreliable yet table 11.1 which covers the progression of the male shot put record starts in 1976 and includes competitors from the former GDR and Soviet Union. To confuse matters the authors do not examine the record progression of the hammer ‘because all the recent records were achieved by Soviet hammer throwers up to 1986 at the height of Soviet doping’ (p.244).

There are two related questions to doping neither of which are examined in this book. Any kind of sporting or physical success achieved by men, and especially women, which is not subject to any kind of doping surveillance, or only very minimally so, must be suspect. It seems to me that this is especially the case with female records since these records are exploited by interested parties to demonstrate that women can compete with men on equal terms. Women who participate in mountaineering, solo sailing events and all-women polar trekking teams attract a lot of media attention and hyperbole. The financial rewards in terms of sponsorship and promotion can also be very lucrative. Furthermore, there is a good chance you will be referred to as an “explorer” and invited to talk nonsense on BBC Women’s Hour. That being the case, the temptation to take performance-enhancing drugs in the knowledge there is no drug-testing regime will be considerable. When female sporting/pastime achievement appears too good to be true, the chances are it is not true or rather that pills may be largely responsible.

Related to feminist exploitation of women in sport is the propaganda of so-called role models and demands for absolute equality of treatment. It is surely high time that all distinctions in sport, that is separate events for men and women, should be abolished and men and women should compete on equal terms. Thus, there would be no women’s 10,000 metres or men’s, just a single race involving those good enough to meet the qualifying standard. The same would apply to boxing and other combat sports. The reason feminists are not interested in this form of equality is because no woman would win anything and there would be no role models for propaganda purposes.

The second aspect to doping in sport is why it should be banned. When leading athletes have access to bio-medical training based on diet, dedicated training regimes and the latest insights into genetic research, it is a lie to maintain that there is some kind of amateur athletics untainted by money and status. Amateur sport died a long time ago. So why not allow massive doping and abandon the pretence that sport is somehow clean? Moreover, it could be entertaining. Imagine an Olympic wrestling match between, say, Sweaty Tamara, a 25 stone, bio-engineered, dope-addicted man-woman freak from Sofia and Hairy Hannah from Islington, a self-described feminist beast crazed by massive doses of testosterone and affirmative-action hormone injections who has to shave “her” body 5 times a day and who is completely immune to rat poison. On a less grotesque note, massive, state-sponsored or private doping should be permitted provided that all athletes and their training/doping regimes were compelled to release all data pertaining to athletes and their training regimes. This kind of experimentation could have spin offs in artificial intelligence, war, understanding disease and space exploration.

On a more quotidian level I have two criticisms to make of this book: the failure to meet basic grammatical standards when using the word “data”; the use of data requires a plural verb – “the data are correct” (the nominative singular is “datum”); and the unjustified concession to PC-speak evident in the frequent use of “gender”. Authors examining matters biological and genetic should not be using the grammatical category of gender. They should use the appropriate and standard word: sex. The use of gender by the Marxist left is intended quite deliberately to foster the erroneous idea that sex and sex differences are social and political constructs and to blur and to deny the biological and genetic boundaries between men and women. Human beings do not have genders. In fact the authors seem confused on the use of “sex” and “gender”. They talk about “traditional sex roles”. Yet two lines later they are writing about “gender differences” (p.140). Gender is for grammarians who have no interest in sex (from a grammatical point of view, of course) and sex is for biologists who have no proper interest in the declension of men and women. But overall, Race and Sport brings the reader up to date with the rapid advances in the field of sporting ability and genes. 

Richard Lynn & Edward Dutton, Race and Sport: Evolution and Racial Differences in Sporting Ability, Ulster Institute for Social Research, London, 2015, Bibliography, Index and Tables, ISBN 978-0-9930001-3-3

Frank Ellis is a former soldier and academic. He is the author of The Stalingrad Cauldron (2013) and Barbarossa 1941 (2015). Both items were published by University Press of Kansas


Frank Ellis 2016

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