April 22, 2012

Stay unmassive, Allyson

The most interesting storyline going into the 2012 Olympics is whether the American long sprinter Allyson Felix will finally give in and go over to the dark side in her pursuit of individual gold. She had to settle in 2004 and 2008 for silver medals in the 200m, losing each time to Jamaican women with biceps twice the diameter of hers. 

Felix is the 21st Century black female version of the old Chariots of Fire Olympians: a well-spoken minister's daughter from the nice middle class black suburb of L.A.. She's just really fast. She turned professional right out of high school, so she couldn't run college track, but still got her U.S.C. degree quickly. It's easy to picture her as a high school principal some day. Corporate America would love to give her lots of money, if she'd only win individual gold. So, I imagine, there's a lot of pressure on her to Do What It Takes. Americans love a winner.

And, at the 2011 world championship (pictured above), Allyson lost in the 400m by 0.03 seconds to a Botswanan with massive biceps. The NYT has an admiring profile on the Botswanan runner today:

The Footprints on a Path to Gold
Amantle Montsho Overcomes Obstacles to Become a Track Champion

 but haven't we learned 24 years after Ben Johnson that huge arm muscles in a sprinter are a dead give-away? Here's the picture splashed by the Times: 
Ahem.

I went to the 1984 Olympics at the L.A. Coliseum and saw an NFL receiver's wife with massive arms edge out a skinny Florence Griffith-Joyner for gold in the 200m. Then Flo-Jo lost the 1987 world championships to an East German with big arms. So, she showed up in 1988 looking like Wonder Woman, and set all the records, which still stand. She died in 1998.

42 comments:

MC said...

She has a relay gold from Beijing. That plus her integrity and beauty really ought to be enough.

Anonymous said...

Is this not libel against Ms. Montsho?

Anonymous said...

seems like this is (or was) part of her training philosophy: http://www.dragondoor.com/articles/the-holy-grail-in-speed-training/default.aspx

Simon in London said...

So there is some way to take steroids that is non-detectable, except by the massive biceps? Is it just about leaving sufficient time between taking the steroids and being drugs tested?

pat said...

Why do you care about all of this? I can understand if it was baseball. Steroids ruin the records. But running?

Do you get equally concerned with improvements in shoe technology? I read once that Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics ran on a cinder track. The article argued that had he run on one of the modern rubber compound track surfaces he would be faster than any modern sprinter. I don't know and more importantly, I don't care.

Foot race sprints are fun to watch but only for about ten seconds. Enjoy the moment.

Peter said...

What with the very rigorous drug testing in the Olympics, I just don't understand how these women can have such huge muscles.

Anonymous said...

EAST AFRICA

sphere said...

Clearly her problem is her parents not giving her a more suitable 1st name, like "Constance" or "Wilhelmina"

Anonymous said...

If I competed in the Olympics without using steroids and I lost to someone who did use them, I would complain loud and persistently -I don't care how uncouth and unsportsmanlike that is. Why isn't there more protesting by the non-steroid using athletes?

I just learned that women's wrestling is an Olympic sport. Are the wrestling ladies suspected of using steroids?

Anonymous said...

I wanted to like Felix... but then I saw her a couple years ago on Japanese TV being interviewed after she won a heat at the world championships. She was impatient and annoyed with the reporter's less than eloquent English, gave one short, flippant answer and walked away. She didn't seem very bright blowing off an entire country full of track enthusiasts who would gladly shower her with endorsement contracts.

SFG said...

I remember reading about the East Germans feeding their women testosterone. The women had a lot of problems in later life...

Anonymous said...

Botswanian blacks are better stories than Christian Minister's daughter blacks.

=nyt/scots-irish think

Kylie said...

You care about this (at least, enough to write a post about it) because you are a "citizenist".

But when I see that photo and read the article, my only take is that I don't care what these people are doing. The American obviously has more in common with that foreign athlete than she does with me.

"Americans love a winner."

I don't think I'm alone in loving a winner who, while not looking like me (i.e., a skinny klutz) does look as though s/he shares my general European ancestry.

Anonymous said...

Where the drug-test boffins? Why don't they disqualify the juicers?

Anonymous said...

Not just the arms--what about the definition in those legs?

I hope the kid stays clean. She's bright, she's black, she's educated--she'll do well in life even w/out the gold.

George said...

Aside from big pipes, she also has the start of that horse-faced look so many body builders are blessed with.

Anonymous said...

Wonder Woman looks like 120 pounds of chewed bubble gum compared to Number 4.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! You are the only person who doesn't forget women's Olympic results before the sun sets. The only women Olympians I remember are Jenny Finch and Katarina Witt.

Marlowe said...

Today's London Marathon saw total Kenyan dominance and the women winners didn't sport much in the way of biceps - I guess on the long haul the extra muscle mass just weighs you down.

Men Winners

1. Wilson Kipsang KENYA (02:04:44)
2. Martin Lel KENYA (02:06:51)
3. Tsegaye Kebede ETHIOPIA (02:06:52)
4. Adil Annani MOROCCO (02:07:43)
5. Jaouad Gharib MOROCCO (02:07:44)
6. Abel Kirui KENYA (02:07:56)
7. Emmanuel Mutai KENYA (02:08:01)
8. Marilson Gomes BRAZIL (02:08:03)
9. Samuel Tsegay ERITREA (02:08:06)
10.Feyisa Lilesa ETHIOPIA (02:08:20)

Women Winners

1. Mary Keitany KENYA (02:18:37)
2. Edna Kiplagat KENYA (02:19:50)
3. Priscah Jeptoo KENYA (02:20:14)
4. Florence Kiplagat KENYA (02:20:57)
5. Lucy Kabuu KENYA (02:23:12)
6. Aberu Kebede ETHIOPIA (02:24:04)
7. Irina Mikitenko GERMANY (02:24:53)
8. Jessica Augusto PORTUGAL (02:24:59)
9. Atsede Baysa ETHIOPIA (02:25:59)
10.Jelena Prokopcuka LATVIA (02:27:04)

The price of patriarchy seems to be just under 14 minutes.

Anonymous said...

"next up, the east german *smirk* 'womens' team"

Anonymous said...

I don’t think the arms and shoulders of East-German sprinters were very big. Their legs were muscular, but not the arms (Göhr, Koch, Drechsler, Möller, Krabbe). Kratochvilova was famous for her She-Hulk look, but she was Checkoslovakian. They were all on drugs of course, but I don’t think East-Germans pumped much iron and you could easily tell they were women.

But since the mid nineties, when the camera shows the 100 meter finalists from the shoulders up, 7 out of 8 look more like boys than girls. I never understood why Griffith-Joyner didn’t bother to shave her mustache in Soul. All the other “girls” did…

Sideways said...

After the Wikipedia article which doesn't mention steroids, you're #1 on Google for "Amantle Montsho steroids" (no quotes)

Sideways said...

Also, she's 28, so are there pictures of a younger, less muscle-bound Amantle? Or could this be another Caster situation, instead?

Mitch said...

You know, I have never heard a whisper about Briscoe-Hooks From the moment I saw FloJo in 88, I knew (and it's amazing how many people fervently denied it). So I'm not sure why no bells went off 4 years earlier with VBH. But I haven't heard or seen anything whispered since, unlike with Griffith-Joyner. Has there been any discussion that you've seen?

The only sprinter I am nearly certain was clean her whole career is Evelyn Ashford, and watching Flo-Jo condescend to her in 88 nearly choked *me*, so I can imagine what it must have been like for Ashford. I'm amazed she didn't take a baseball bat.

And maybe that's part of the difference in VBH vs. FGJ--the latter was so damn unpleasant.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Montsho is very manly. How exactly does it benefit a country by having the world's fastest person? I have a lot more respect for(and fear of) countries with the world's fastest machines.

The poor people who have to stare at that ugly billboard in the photo, probably wish the US foreign aid money was instead spent on new canvas for that awning. If some of that Pride keeps them living there instead of coming here, Go Amantle!

Anonymous said...

Flojo was definitely juicing, she had the same coach as Ben Johnson and he was her training partner. Johnson only got caught because he injured himself right before the Olympics and the only way to fully recover in time to compete was to juice closer to the event than he typically did and risk exposure. It was estimated that the winner of the 100m in the Olympics would earn close to 10M in endorsements, if you don't compete you can't win and get paid, so he risked it, but he had been juicing without getting caught for 7 years before Seoul. Flojo's records still stand nearly a quarter century after she set them as well Marita Koch's 400m record, and we all know that all East German athletes were juicing whether they were the best or not. This is pretty embarrassing for the men and women are equal crowd, they were citing Flojo's blinding speed in the 100m and 200m as proof that women would soon be equal to men in Olympic events. Now that 24 years have passed and the women's records in 100m, 200m, and 400m from that era are still standing, it would be pretty hard for even the hardest core blank slater to argue for athletic equality between the sexes. I've also noticed much slower times in the women's sprints since Marion Jones got busted for using BALCO drugs, also unlike the men's times which continue to drop despite Gaitlin and Montgomery's busts for PED's.

Anonymous said...

"Where the drug-test boffins?"

The dopers are tough to catch. The protocols for the anti-doping groups are published, which gives the dopers enough information to evade the tests.

For example, many athletic organizations ban a long list of anabolic steroids. BALCO, supplier to Barry Bonds and others, got around this by creating a new anabolic steroid that was not on the banned lists and for which no test existed.

Cyclists have a long history of better riding through chemistry. Every few years there's a major scandal as the riders, with the assistance of team coaches and team doctors, get caught using performance-enhancing drugs. There's a crackdown, but no one believes the drug problem goes away.

Anonymous said...

"I don’t think the arms and shoulders of East-German sprinters were very big. "

I've heard there are techniques to reduce muscle mass in specific areas, such as the upper body, while increasing it elsewhere.

"Why do you care about all of this?"

The coaches running the sports don't have the best interests of their athletes at heart. If a win means running the risk of permanent medical issues for the athlete, they, and often the athlete, will choose the win. The athletes are at a significant information disadvantage about the long-term effects of doping techniques. And if you're a non-doper the pressure to keep up is enormous.

I don't think gladiator contests are a good thing overall.

Sideways said...

And then you've got guys like Ryan Braun, who only got caught because he was randomly tested right after juicing.

Short half life steroids are hard to catch.

Anonymous said...

Why do you care about all of this? I can understand if it was baseball. Steroids ruin the records. But running?



Steroids ruin the records in running as well.

Anonymous said...

Amantle Montsho Overcomes Obstacles to Become a Track Champion

Yeesh. All these NYT articles are written by an algorithm, I know it. Someday it will be revealed.

Anonymous said...

I met flojo randomly with Al Joyner at Camden yards all star game in '92. Lovely woman - funny, sweet, etc. Surprised to hear she was nasty.

In fact, I'm not going to believe it.

Dan in DC

Steve Sailer said...

My impression was that Flo-Jo was a charming lady when she was a beautician winning silver medals while Juicers took home gold, and all the drugs just made her personality bigger, but still fun. Barry Bonds was a jerk when he was clean and a bigger jerk when he was juiced.

Lara said...

I would think being in the finals, clean, is a bigger accomplishment than winning a medal, juiced. Plus, you get to keep your good looks, which is very important for a girl.

Anonymous said...

"Today's London Marathon saw total Kenyan dominance and the women winners didn't sport much in the way of biceps - I guess on the long haul the extra muscle mass just weighs you down."

Endurance and aerobic athletes dope in different ways than strength/explosiveness athletes. The classic approach is to boost the red blood cell count, which increases the ability of blood to supply O2 to muscles, traditionally via the drug EPO . This has a massive effect on aerobic capacity. When EPO first hit in the early 90's a group of Italian cyclists associated with a Dr. Ferrari (really) suddenly went from nondescript pack fodder to dropping excellent but clean riders like Andy Hampsten on the big climbs. EPO use swept through the sport and other aerobic sports like XC skiing and distance running. Eventually an EPO test was developed, but there are ways to dodge it. Aerobic athletes also took to blood doping, in which they donate blood, then re-inject the plasma at a later time to boost their RBC count. This is likely what tripped up Floyd Landis; he took a transfusion of his own blood, but that blood was from earlier in the season, when he was using performance enhancing drugs to recover more quickly during training. The doping products showed up on a screen.


"I would think being in the finals, clean, is a bigger accomplishment than winning a medal, juiced."

Certain American cyclists became very rich and famous while not being caught in drug screens. Note the ambiguity in that statement.

Anonymous said...

As a former shot putter, I pay attention to that more than the runners. In the Athens Olympics, all 8 finalists in the shot had been banned at some point in the previous 5 years for PEDs.

It's never going to stop. The only way to create a level playing field is to allow the athletes do do whatever drugs they want.

bluto said...

I've never understood why anyone cares about clean performance. I'd love to see more sporting competitions where just like equipment, diet, and workout optimizations, drug courses were worked out to maximize performance (or minimize side effects, etc).

Anonymous said...

I was a swimmer, my favorite minority sportswomen is Cindy Tran the two time NCAA's champ in 100 yard backstroke just behind Natalie Couglin record. Tran is a yards swimmer not a meter swimmer, so I doubt she will make the olympic team. She is the first asian elite swimmer from Oranga County and swims with Berkely in College and they won two national Championships during her freshman and sophmore years.

Anonymous said...

Are you trying to state that Joyner died because of steroid use? She died of an epileptic seizure caused by a congenital brain defect.

Anonymous said...

They ALL use steroids/hgh. Not just the winners, but the people who come in 2nd, 3rd, 4th... too.

Drug tests are useless. When are you people going to realize this, ffs?
It seems you all have forgotten that Marion Jones passed HUNDREDS of drug tests while juicing the whole time.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, they should ban personal coaches (+ "team doctors" in sport). They are nothing more than drug suppliers.

And they shouldn't even drug test the athletes (since drug testing is a joke + costs money + takes time). They should just hire 1 experienced bodybuilding guru, and get him to quickly check out every athlete while they stand in line in bikinis, as he walks past them. Too easy.
Eg. *Walks past* Lolo Jones "BANNED!", *walks past* Sally Pearson "BANNED!", *walks past* Jetter "BANNED!", *walks past* Yelena Isinbayeva "BANNED!"... it's that easy. Anyone who knows bodybuilding (I'm talking about experts/gurus, not 17yo BB.com losers/members) can easily tell if they have used PEDs.
Hell, I can tell Pearson and Yelena have used PEDs by just looking at their face, and can tell Jetter has used a lot of steroids by just looking at her trap muscles.
Imagine someone like Charles Glass examining them. He'd probably be able to pick them out by their scent alone.

This ^^ is the best way.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, they should ban personal coaches (+ "team doctors" in sport). They are nothing more than drug suppliers.

And they shouldn't even drug test the athletes (since drug testing is a joke + costs money + takes time). They should just hire 1 experienced bodybuilding guru, and get him to quickly check out every athlete while they stand in line in bikinis, as he walks past them. Too easy.
Eg. *Walks past* Lolo Jones "BANNED!", *walks past* Sally Pearson "BANNED!", *walks past* Jetter "BANNED!", *walks past* Yelena Isinbayeva "BANNED!"... it's that easy. Anyone who knows bodybuilding (I'm talking about experts/gurus, not 17yo BB.com losers/members) can easily tell if they have used PEDs.
Hell, I can tell Pearson and Yelena have used PEDs by just looking at their face, and can tell Jetter has used a lot of steroids by just looking at her trap muscles.
Imagine someone like Charles Glass examining them. He'd probably be able to pick them out by their scent alone.

This ^^ is the best way.