On page A12 of today's Kansas City Star (sourced from the Los Angeles Times), I read with interest the article entitled, "How many more records can athletes break?" subtitled, "Not many, say scientists who believe humans have reached the peak of athletic achievement." (I am unable to find the article online, or I would link it here.)
The story was introduced by yet another track and field winner who was stripped of a previously earned gold medal after it was discovered she "admitted to using a performance enhancing drug." It was explained, "..to many sports scientists, the news was evidence of a broader trend. They believe that human athletic performance has peaked, and only cheating or technological advances will result in a rash of new world records."
"A French researcher who analyzed a century's worth of world records concluded in a recent paper that the peak of athletic achievement was reached in 1988. Eleven world records were broken that year in track and field. Seven of them still stand... [I]n the 1990s we started to see a decrease in performance. Now, there are a lot of events that don't show any progression at all." The article explains that the less mature winter sports will still see a rise, and the spike in swimming records around 2000 were due to the introduction of new high-tech swimsuits.
The concern here is that "the public thinks that athletes will get better and better. That's why they tune in to watch. I don't know if people realize that athletes can't keep improvement at the rates they have been," explained Conrad Earnest, director of exercise biology at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA.
Now, that's an interesting point for runners. Mostly, just for us to ponder, as we won't be anywhere near world record breaking, nor do we care. (But, hey, if you are world record contender, let me welcome you to my blog, thanks for stopping by!) I do wonder how much of today's superior running achievements are due to hard work and the gift of genetics, versus how much doping or other banned substances are used to shave a few milliseconds? And, do people really watch these events to behold a world record? Or do they watch for the drama of a good foot race? What if there are no "natural" (read: no illegal performance enhancing drugs or doping) marathons faster than Haile's 2:03:59 set in Berlin a little over a year ago? Does it matter? Tell me what you think.
Topo Athletic Ultrafly
12 hours ago