U.S. Olympic track legend Michael Johnson: Descendants of West African slaves have ‘superior athletic gene’
‘It’s a fact that hasn’t been discussed openly before. It’s a taboo subject in the States but it is what it is. Why shouldn’t we discuss it?’ asks Johnson.
By Andy Clayton / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
American track legend Michael Johnson says that descendants of West African slaves have a ‘superior athletic gene.’
Johnson, who became the first man to win gold in both the 200- and 400-meter sprints in a single Olympics, when he pulled off the feat at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, makes the controversial comments in a documentary that airs Thursday night on the UK’s Channel 4—‘Michael Johnson: Survival of the Fastest’
“Over the last few years, athletes of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American descent have dominated athletics finals,” Johnson said in an interview with The Daily Mail.
“It’s a fact that hasn’t been discussed openly before. It’s a taboo subject in the States but it is what it is. Why shouldn’t we discuss it?”
Johnson, now a track and field analyst for the BBC, has four career gold medals. He also won relay gold in 1992 in Barcelona and for defending his 400-meter crown in Sydney in 2000.
“All my life I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations.”
The 44-year-old Johnson took a DNA test for the documentary which proved he is of West African descent.
“Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me—I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”
Long-time football broadcaster Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was fired by CBS for making similar comments on blacks in sports to a Washington D.C. TV reporter in a 1988 interview.
“The slave owner would breed his big black (man) to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid. … That’s where it all started,” Snyder said.
CBS termed Snyder’s remarks “reprehensible” when they immediately canned the 12-year veteran of the network’s ‘The NFL Today’ pre-game show. Snyder, who was 70 at the time, died in 1996.
The documentary points out that all eight 100-meter finalists from the Beijing Olympics in 2008 are believed to have been descended from slaves.
Usain Bolt, the Jamaican star who broke the world record to win gold four years ago, was joined in the finals by two other Jamaicans, two runners from Trinidad and Tobago, two African-Americans and a sprinter from Holland who was born on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao.
Johnson confronts the horrific history of slavery—from mass murder on slave ships to nightmarish breeding programs of plantation owners—in the Ch. 4 film. The Olympic champ also speaks to leading voices in the world of sports and science to examine the link between the trans-Atlantic slave trade and genetic selection.