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Genetics in Track and Field

By Jackson Clark

As a Track and Field athlete it is clear that some people have an advantage beyond just training. This advantage can be explained by people having different genetics. My mom was an elite college track runner and I am now also a great track athlete. The question is what things can genetics change in order to give an advantage. For one thing, genes determine body proportions, including leg length. Longer legs give a large advantage in terms of running and jumping, two things that are critical in track and field. But that is not the only thing that can give someone a genetic advantage. A mutation in the erythropoietin receptor can cause people to have up to 20% more red blood cell production than an average human. RBCs carry oxygen to muscles so having more of them would mean that you could have increased endurance. Genetics also determine whether or not muscles have slow twitch or fast twitch muscle fibers. With upcoming genetic editing technology, people could create people designed to be better runners. This practice would probably have to be outlawed by the olympic committee since it would be equivalent to taking performance enhancing drugs.

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