July 30, 2012

Signs of Intellectual Progress!

Back in the 1990s, I frequently read that women athletes were Closing the Gap with men; if trends continued, in the 21st Century Olympics, women would be just as fast as men. So, I did a big quantitative study on the size of the gender gap in track in all Olympics for a 1997 article in National Review entitled Track and Battlefield:
Everybody knows that the "gender gap" in physical performance between male and female athletes is rapidly narrowing. Moreover, in an opinion poll just before the 1996 Olympics, 66% claimed "the day is coming when top female athletes will beat top males at the highest competitive levels." The most publicized scientific study supporting this belief appeared in Nature in 1992: "Will Women Soon Outrun Men?" Physiologists Susan Ward and Brian Whipp pointed out that since the Twenties women's world records in running had been falling faster than men's. Assuming these trends continued, men's and women's marathon records would equalize by 1998, and during the early 21st Century for the shorter races. 
This is not sports trivia. Whether the gender gap in athletic performance stems from biological differences between men and women, or is simply a social construct imposed by the Male Power Structure, is highly relevant both to fundamental debates about the malleability of human nature, as well as to current political controversies such as the role of women in the military. 
When everybody is so sure of something, it's time to update the numbers. 

I discovered, however, that the narrowing was only up through 1988. The fall of the Berlin Wall and better testing for artificial male hormones had caused the Olympic track gender gap to grow from the 1988 Olympics to the 1996 Olympics. 

Slowly, my argument has carried the field over the last 15 years. Thus, when a Chinese woman swam the last 50m of her race on Saturday night faster than Ryan Lochte, the men's gold medalist, swam his last 50m of the men's version of the race, the New York Times reporter did not celebrate it as a Breakthrough for Female Equality, but instead treated it as presumptive evidence of something fishy going on:
China Pool Prodigy Churns Wave of Speculation
By JERÉ LONGMAN 
At 16, the Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen is one of the youngest competitors in the Olympics and so far the most remarkable. What she has done in the pool is the water-based equivalent of what Usain Bolt did on the track four years ago in Beijing. 
On Saturday night, Ye not only shattered the world record in the 400 individual medley, winning gold in 4 minutes 28.43 seconds, she also swam the final 50 meters faster than Ryan Lochte did in winning the men’s race.

It was really a little less amazing than it sounds -- Lochte was apparently taking it easy on the last length after blowing away the field earlier. But still ...
On Monday, Ye returned to the pool and set an Olympic record of 2:08.39 in the semifinals of the 200 individual medley, her best event. 
There is nothing to indicate that she is anything more than a great swimmer from a country that holds about a fifth of the world’s population, a teenager who relies on the latest scientific training and the kind of adolescent certainty that makes her unaware of any limitations. The Chinese have pledged to obey the rules. And Ye dismissed any concerns about doping. 
Yet women’s swimming does not permit itself naïve and untempered adulation. Not after the systematic East German doping of the 1970s and ’80s. Not after Chinese scandals in the 1990s. Not after Michelle Smith of Ireland won four medals at the Atlanta Games in 1996 under disputed circumstances and was later barred from competition for tampering with a urine sample. 
The response to unsurpassed achievement now falls somewhere uncomfortably between amazement and incredulity, that gray area between celebration and suspicion. 
“That’s pretty unbelievable,” David Sharpe, a Canadian swimmer, said of Ye’s finishing kick on Saturday, in which she covered her final 50 meters in 28.93, faster than Lochte’s 29.10. “No one really understands how that happened.” 
Ye swam her final 100 meters of the 400 I.M. in 58.68 seconds. Lochte was only three-hundredths of a second faster. No one could immediately remember a woman closing faster than 61 seconds. 
“Interesting,” said Natalie Coughlin, an American with 12 Olympic medals.
“Insane,” said Stephanie Rice of Australia, the 2008 Olympic champion and former world-record holder in the 400 I.M. “Fifty-eight is out of control.” 
Lochte made a cordial joke about being outkicked. On Monday, Michael Phelps, who finished fourth in the men’s 400 I.M., smiled at a question about Ye’s closing speed and said: “She almost outswam me, too. We were all pretty shocked. It’s pretty impressive that she went that fast.” 
No swimmers accused Ye, who is 5 feet 8 inches and weighs 141 pounds, of using illicit substances to fuel her kick. Medalists and, at random, other athletes are tested at the Games. 
But John Leonard, an American who is executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association and has long voiced suspicions of doping in China, told The Guardian on Monday that he found Ye’s performance “disturbing.” 
Caitlin Leverenz, an American who finished third in Ye’s heat in the 200 on Monday, said: “The Chinese have had a history in the past of doping, so I don’t think people are crazy to point fingers, but I don’t think that’s my job to do right now. I’m just trying to do my best.” 
Frank Busch, national team director for USA Swimming, was more gracious, calling Ye’s final 100 meters on Saturday “more than remarkable, phenomenal.” 
Was he concerned that what Ye had done was not legitimate? 
“I would never go there,” Busch said.

Fifteen years ago, this healthy skepticism would have been rare.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know what substance she's using but she clearly looks very female, and mate-able.

Anonymous said...

Very female, and mate-able? Look at that jaw. She looks like a slightly pudgy 16 yo boy. How could she be faster than the chiseled Lochte?

Jason Sylvester said...

Treading metaphorical water in my living room while waiting to go pick up my wife from work this evening, I tuned into Brian William's NBC evening news broadcast, and one of the stories "teased" in the intro was this one - and I thought "oh, brother; here's another Title IX-Should-Go-Worldwide puff piece."

I was actually astonished to find that it wasn't a call from Brian Williams & Co., or at least a strong suggestion, to make all Olympic competitions gender-neutral, but rather the journalistic equivalent of a gimlet eye being cast on the female athlete who'd managed such a feat. The word "doping" made more than one appearance in that story, actually.

Signs of "Intellectual Progress," even if in baby-steps by a reliable outlet of the mainstream Leftist media, indeed.

Anonymous said...

most people did not take seriously the idea of closing gender gap in sports. it was one of those eye-rolling 'riiiiiight' things as far as most people were concerned.

and what people overlooked was race. in the past, blacks had been discriminated and/or underrepresented in sports. and so most of the records were set by white men.

but with black domination in sports, BLACK women began to approach the records of WHITE men from long ago. it was not like black women were catching up to BLACK MEN.

it's like female greyhounds can outrun male beagles.

of course, differences among races are not as pronounced as differences among dog breeds but you know what i mean.

------

"Fifteen years ago, this healthy skepticism would have been rare."

Not so. When Chinese women began doing well in swimming and long distance track in the 90s, there were lots of articles on possible cheating. I remember the controversy all over the place. It was deemed strange because Chinese are not known to be an athletic people.
And immediately new measures were taken to smoke out the cheaters.

-----------

I think there had to be some kind of cheating on the part of the Chinese.

But swimming isn't only about power but aquadynamics. Some people have body shapes that give them a huge advantage.

When I was 10 yrs old, I was part of the boys and girls club(back then just called boys club) swimming team(in 1978). The star swimmer in the entire conference was a 16 yr old Chinese guy who was all skin and bones as far as I could tell.
But he simply couldn't be beat. He didn't so much swim as slice through water like knife thru butter. Other swimmers had more muscle but the chinese guy was designed like a barracuda.

So it could be combination of cheating and unique aquadynamics.

Anonymous said...

obama was doped by the media.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

NY Times catches up with Steve, 2-3 years later:

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/is-algebra-necessary.html

I am Lugash.

Anonymous said...

I haven't watched any of the Olympics and don't plan to.

I did hear something interesting today, though. Is it true that in gymnastics, only two competitors can be from the same country so as to "give the other nations a shot?"

If so, then the Olympics have prevented the world from identifying the best in each sport all for being PC.

A shame.

Auntie Analogue said...

First they came for the War on Poverty.

Then they came for the War on Drugs.


Then they came for the War on Terror.


Then the failure of all three of those wars was swept under the carpet, as for all three wars the metrics kept shapeshifting.

Anonymous said...

You Swim could be innocent but her trainers could have doped her without her knowing.

Anonymous said...

Well, its easier to cheat in women's swimming.

Ron Woo said...

"I don't know what substance she's using but she clearly looks very female, and mate-able."

Seriously?

To me she looks like a peasant girl from Anhui province.

Then again, she's probably on par if not more fetching than most of the local girls squired by expats in Shanghai or Beijing.

Anonymous said...

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/107779/jonah-lehrers-deceptions

he was just being 'creative'.

Anonymous said...

where's men's synchro swimming?

Anonymous said...

California swimmiers are old in Olympics. Natalie Couglin is 29, Jason Lezak is 36 and Tyler Clary is about 24 and Chloe Sutton is 20 years old and Anthony Erin is about 31 or 32 years old. None of the teen swimmers on the women's team grew in California/ Missy Franklin 17 Colorado, Rachel Boothsma 18 Minnesota and Kate Lednecky 15 years old Virginia. So, while there are age group kids mainly white with some asians make nationals or going to college programs none make the olympics under 19 years old. As Steve mention changing from white to hispanic will eventually effective kids in sports. Granted, some tall white kids go out for Volleyball and other sports in California but 12 years ago 16 Katlyn Sandeno and Aaron Perisol on the men team man the olympics.

Anonymous said...

Also, will Allison Felix be the last great track runner in So Calif, the same thing means to be happening in Track and Field, Calif teen black population has dropped about a percent point in the past decade, granted some blacks if they are bigger still go into basketball and so forth but sports like Track where you are closer to average size seems to be hit as well.

TH said...

This Chinese girl's record means that women's world record in 400m medley is about the same that men's was in the mid-1970s. She's still about 25 seconds behind the current men's WR, so I don't think it's very relevant that she was faster than Lochte in one part of the race.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about the lack of skepticism 15 years ago. I remember the Chinese women swimmers looked freakish in the 1996 Olympics. They were truly disturbing. It was plainly obvious that they were doping and covering it up. Maybe they have figured out how to be more subtle about it.

Anonymous said...

"obama was doped by the media."

HAHAHA!

My only consolation is that hte scotch-irish are shooting themselves in the foot.

Anonymous said...


obama was doped by the media.


Not so. The media was doped by Obama.

Kylie said...

"...of course, differences among races are not as pronounced as differences among dog breeds but you know what i mean."

Of course.

Funny guy.

Kylie said...

Anonymous said...
"where's men's synchro swimming?"

Regrettably, that and the Olympic voguing event have yet to catch on.

Just give them time. You might be pleasantly surprised by the 2020 Olympics.

Anonymous said...

http://www.thebaffler.com/past/adam_wheeler_went_to_harvard/print

Undocumented student not wanted at Harvard? I guess Harvard isn't a sanctuary university.

Let's have Occupy Harvard.

Anonymous said...

There was surely manipulation behind Ye Shiwen. Doping or 'genetic manipulation' or something.

But maybe it's not so strange that her final lap was faster than a man's. It could have been a matter of stamina. It could be guys swim more explosively in opening relays and are therefore more drained by the final lap.
It's like West African blacks are better at short sprints than long runs in which East Africans, North Africans, and whites do better.

And in the Boston marathon, many weaker women beat bigger stronger men.
So, it would be really strange if Ye beat Lochte in a one-on-one free style race. But maybe it's not so strange in a relay where one's stamina is key.

Anonymous said...

This case is easier because "China bashing" is allowed. But if the star athlete were Jewish or Israeli, more would be quiet.

So, intellectual honesty rises and falls with who's being scrutinized.

Anonymous said...

Do they check for correctness a la the walking events?

Anonymous said...

"It could have been a matter of stamina."

"And in the Boston marathon, many weaker women beat bigger stronger men."

"So, it would be really strange if Ye beat Lochte in a one-on-one free style race. But maybe it's not so strange in a relay where one's stamina is key."

You haven't thought this through.

Anonymous said...

what people overlooked was race. in the past, blacks had been discriminated and/or underrepresented in sports. and so most of the records were set by white men.


but with black domination in sports, BLACK women began to approach the records of WHITE men from long ago. it was not like black women were catching up to BLACK MEN.


That's a total crock. Black women have not been approaching the records of white men "from long ago", unless you are using long ago to mean something totally dishonest, like a hundred years ago.


Rodger Bannister was the first man to run a sub-four minute mile, in 1954. As of 2012, the world record for a woman in the mile is four minutes twelve-point-nine-eight seconds.

That womans record is held by Svetlana Masterkova. No, she's not black.

There are a lot of "Cliff Claven" style commenters here who confidently opine on matters of which they know little or nothing.

ATBOTL said...

We've had regression on the important stuff.

Anonymous said...

"That's a total crock. Black women have not been approaching the records of white men "from long ago", unless you are using long ago to mean something totally dishonest, like a hundred years ago."

How is 100 yrs ago dishonest?

Anonymous said...

"Rodger Bannister was the first man to run a sub-four minute mile, in 1954. As of 2012, the world record for a woman in the mile is four minutes twelve-point-nine-eight seconds."

I guess you never saw women run through Macy's on Black Friday.

Eric said...

As someone who comes from a family of competitive swimmers, let me just say there's no way on God's Green Earth you can knock five seconds off your best time in that event and at that level of competition without 'roids. It's impossible. Reasonable would be a few tenths.

People paying attention to her splits knew she was doping even before she finished the race. "No one really understands how that happened." How diplomatic. What he means is "Nobody wants to state the fucking obvious."

Mitch said...

Everyone was certain that the Chinese were doping in 1996; the women looked like bulls. And everyone was certain that Michelle Smith was doping that same year.

And they were right.

This swimmer did her last 100 of the 400 IM faster than any woman has ever swam the last 100 of a 200 free. She's doping.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was the turtle soup?

Kiwiguy said...

That reminds me of a radio sport host here in NZ in 1999 predicting that women would one day compete with men in tennis. I think that was on the back of the Williams sisters powerful entry to the sport.

I remember almost calling in at the time to say that was absurd.

Anonymous said...

Eric: As someone who comes from a family of competitive swimmers, let me just say there's no way on God's Green Earth you can knock five seconds off your best time in that event and at that level of competition without 'roids. It's impossible. Reasonable would be a few tenths.

Mitch: This swimmer did her last 100 of the 400 IM faster than any woman has ever swam the last 100 of a 200 free. She's doping.

What's even worse [if I understand correctly] is that in both the 400IM and the 200IM, she was BEHIND after the first three strokes, and only came storming back with her freestyle leg.

In other words, she sucks at the "skill" strokes [butterfly, backstroke, breastroke], and she can only make it up on the power stroke [freestyle].

But people who think this is even possible have obviously never swum an IM - if you are behind on the breastroke [which is the slowest stroke], and if the leading swimmer takes off ahead of you on the freestyle [which is the fastest stroke], then it's basically impossible to catch them - because they are [quite literally] accelerating away by swimming the freestyle while you are stuck "treading water" with the breaststroke.

Plus, after you finish the breaststroke, you're just completely exhausted, and it's all you can do to bring it home on the freestyle without drowning.

What she's doing strikes me as physiologically impossible [under normal circumstances] - it sounds like her physiologists have discovered some weird technique that functions like a combination of HGH and blood doping.

Anonymous said...

Funny that the former Commies are making great strides in swimming and many of the fringe events that most of us have never heard of, but their tumbling tweens, once dominant, don't seem to have the mental toughness of their forebears.

Anonymous said...

People paying attention to her splits knew she was doping even before she finished the race. "No one really understands how that happened." How diplomatic. What he means is "Nobody wants to state the fucking obvious."

BECAUSE NO ONE WANT TO BE LOOK LIKE "FUCKING RACIST IDIOT" IF THERE IS NO DOPING.

Inertia said...

And we all know that those noble Americans never ever cheat, right? Apart from Carl Lewis , Dennis Mitchell , Kellie White,Kevin Toth,John McEwen,Regina Jacobs,Lashawn Merritt,Marion Jones,Tim Montgomery,Justin Gatlin,Maurice Greene,Alvin Harrison,Calvin Harrison,C.J. Hunter,Jerome Young,Diane Williams,Ivory Williams,Kenta Bell,Randy Barnes,Eric Thomas,Timothy Rusan,Mike Rodgers,Harry Reynolds,Duane Ross,Melissa Price,Antonio Pettigrew,Chris Phillips,Al Oerter,Jeff Laynes,Chryste Gaines,Sandra Glover,Mary Decker, etc. I think it is easier to memorize the names of American athletes that never were caught using PEDs. Yet all that the American media seems to come up with whenever they run a story on dubious performances are those East Germans form the 70ies. This almost resembles the way the American media covers up non white criminality and social dysfunction.
You people should take a long , hard look in the mirror and recognize the ugliness of your own lies and self-deceptions.

The reason that no notable american swimmer has ever been caught using PEDs is the professionalism of its medical staff and the mafia like omerta of USA swimming. Many of the world's top swimmers train in the U.S. and once swimmers from other nations transfer to American Colleges they often dramatically change in their physical appearance.

I remember the rather skinny Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruin who literally turned into a she-hulk after several years at an American University. I read that the 28 Year old Ryan Lochte is also an avid weightlifter. On y soit qui mal y pense. And Mr. "I swim four Heats in two hours" Phelps is beyond a shade of doubt, after all he is an American icon not some slant eyed robot from the 36 torture chambers of the shaolin, fed turtle blood twice a day.

Anonymous said...

in the past, blacks had been discriminated and/or underrepresented in sports. and so most of the records were set by white men.


Well, no. In track and and field blacks were not discriminated against. Jesse Owens was competing at the highest level back in the 1930's.

The biggest obstacle for blacks (and for poor whites) was that most sport was amateur. Only the well-off could really afford to spend a great deal of time and effort on an activity with little or no financial reward.

Chicago said...

It's good that the commentators picked up on it right away. But, would they have been so fast if it was a member of the US team?

Anonymous said...

"once swimmers from other nations transfer to American Colleges they often dramatically change in their physical appearance"

similar story for normal people, fat instead of muscle.

"What's even worse [if I understand correctly] is that in both the 400IM and the 200IM, she was BEHIND after the first three strokes, and only came storming back with her freestyle leg."

so that would be a case against female endurance.

Eric said...

And we all know that those noble Americans never ever cheat, right?

That isn't the interesting part of the story. I imagine more than half the athletes competing have been using some sort of performance-enhancing drugs.

What makes this the talk of the day is she cheated so egregiously it's in-your-face obvious. If you want to keep your gold medal you have to beat your opponents by few tenths. You can't blow them out of the pool like that.

BECAUSE NO ONE WANT TO BE LOOK LIKE "FUCKING RACIST IDIOT" IF THERE IS NO DOPING.

There's doping. That's not in question. The question is whether or not the current tests are going to be able to detect whatever it is they gave her. But even if they don't her blood sample will get frozen away. In a few years they'll develop the right test and retroactively strip her medals.

Norville Rogers said...

For me the Chinese swimmer was the interest hook about the Olympics this year, the only thing to stand out from the usual multiculti awkwardness. She doesn't seem villainous and I get why they are strenuously making her into a national Marianne, of sorts. The ex-chief of Google China did the Spike Lee thing and posted the critical American coach's home address. Of course the Taiwan Youtube outfit got in on it--though I don't understand why a comedy-news channel associated w/ the anti-commie party of a non-IOC/UN-recognized outlaw state is taking such a positive, enthused view of the PRC ingenue in this instance? Blood's thicker I guess

Sword said...

Regarding the anon that wrote about Svetlana Masterkova:

The top-30 list of all time of best personal bests in the mile running event for women is here:
http://www.all-athletics.com/en-us/node/562063?gender=F&event=10229517#offset=272

Of those 30 runners, only 3 are of recent sub-saharan ancestry. Of the 4 USA runners, 3 are wholly caucasian, and 1 is AA with large caucasian admixture, Regina Jacobs. 8 of those 50 PB results were set in the 90ies, 13 in the 80ies, and 9 in the 00ies.

The best result in the world this year was set by Nicole Schappert, a Caucasian American.

Tor Hershman said...

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