Two of MCKEPs top athletes, Chris McCarthy and Rich Simkiss, were approached by Manchester Metropolitan University to take part in a study of the genetics of athletic performance – presumably to understand what doesn’t make an elite athlete. The analysis took place at the London Marathon expo just hours before the pair dove into a family pack of Haribo, 2 loaves of Soreen and 5 tonnes of Pasta. The pair were whisked away from the expo to give a sample, Simkiss opted to give a blood sample whilst McCarthy’s fear of needles meant he went around the back and spent thirty minutes on his knees spitting over a long tube… and then he gave a sample.
After hours of lab analysis it turns out Simkiss is an ‘RR’ and McCarthy an ‘XX’.
Well apparently it refers to the “ACTN3 R577X genotype”. ACTN3 is the name of a gene possessed by all humans, but there are two different versions of it, called R and X. Because we inherit one ACTN3 gene from each parent, every person is either an RR, RX or XX genotype.
People who are RR or RX genotype seem to have, on average, slightly better sprinting ability. On the other hand, people who are XX genotype seem, on average, to have slightly better endurance ability.
No, no! This bit of genetic information is only one small part of what goes to make an elite sprinter, an elite endurance athlete or any other kind of athlete. One should not change any training programme because of this information! All people, regardless of which ACTN3 genes they possess, can increase speed or endurance if they train accordingly and support that training with a healthy diet.
So this information is basically irrelevant then?
Yes. It would appear so, but…
This completely useless information has taken 5 months to be reported back to chief MCKEP scientist, Dr Fox, who by now has observed two completely different seasons from his athletes. McCarthy, as we all know, has powered himself to the number one position in the MCKEP rankings with blistering performances over the last 6 weeks. Meanwhile, Simkiss has fallen into obscurity and finds himself training at the track on club nights to try and make himself feel better about himself. Looking back at ‘the fall of Simkiss’ it seems that this may actually be down to his RR genetics, 12 months ago he was deep in the midst of a kitchen refit, a well known stimuli of performance for the RR carrier. He now finds himself with an empty hole in his schedule which he has started to fill with silly things like swimming, biking, flower arranging and refurbishing Laura Ashley cabinets.
So is there one learning from the study?
Dr Fox… in no way influenced by Simkiss… has identified that the ‘XX’ genotype posessed by McCarthy responds vigorously to even the slightest hint of the element ‘success’ [symbol: Su]. The short term effect is a heavily inflated ego which remains until the reaction is reversed via the presence of a superior ‘RR’ genotype compatriot who will naturally attract the molecules of success leaving only trace amounts of obsolete Su for the XX genotype to cling to.