Genotypes and distance running: clues from Africa

Robert A. Scott, Yannis Pitsiladis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A look at the medal podium in almost any international sporting competition reveals that some athletes and certain countries enjoy regular success in particular events. While environmental influences such as training and diet are important, it is likely that there is also some genetic component to elite athletic performance. One of the most compelling examples of athletic domination is that of east African runners in international distance running competition. This phenomenon has led to the suggestion that east Africans possess some inherent genetic advantage predisposing them to superior athletic performances. The concurrent success of athletes of west African ancestry in sprint events also appears to have augmented this belief given their similar skin colour. A growing body of evidence suggests that genetic variation does influence athletic performance, yet despite the speculation that African athletes have a genetic advantage for physical performance, there is no genetic evidence to suggest that this is the case. The only available genetic studies of elite African athletes do not find that these athletes possess a unique genetic makeup; rather, they serve to highlight the high degree of genetic diversity in east African populations and also among elite east African athletes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-427
Number of pages4
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2007


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