Five years ago, Deon Venter was an expert in diseases, not sports. As chief pathologist for the Melbourne-based company Genetic Technologies, he focused on genetic links to breast cancer and epilepsy. But something happened to change all that.
In 2003 a group of researchers analyzed a single gene among 429 Australian athletes and found that sprinters and other power performers were far likelier to have a version of the gene that produced high levels of a protein used to help muscles generate force at high speed. Elite athletes in endurance events like long-distance running were more likely to have a version that left them deficient in the protein.
Venter, 51 and a triathlete, took the gene test immediately. "Questions I'd mulled over for years were answered, quite literally, in about a minute," he says...
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