Despite some advances, it remains largely unknown how the millions of variations in the human genome influence athletic performance (especially in endurance events), and no single genetic test can really predict sports talent. However, there is experimental evidence from animal research that selecting for even a simple characteristic such as running ability can produce comparatively large and rapid changes in performance. That such selection has not been specifically documented in humans is more evidence of the limits of physiology-archeology than of the unlikelihood of selection for physical abilities. Here, the authors argue that top Olympians are likely genetically gifted individuals who in addition have numerous contributors to the “complex trait” of being an athletic champion that may not necessarily depend on defined genetic variations.
Sanchis-Gomar, Pareja-Galeano, and Lucia are with the Research Inst of the Hospital 12 de Octubre (“i+12”), Madrid, Spain. Rodriguez-Marroyo is with the Dept of Physical Education and Sports, University of Léon, Léon, Spain. de Koning is with the Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, MOVE Research Inst Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Foster is with the Dept of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI.