For about a decade — a time that Olympic historians may someday classify as “the Michael Phelps era” — I’ve been reading about the unique genetic blessings bestowed upon the greatest swimmer to ever live. Phelps possesses a disproportionately vast wingspan, for example. Double-jointed ankles give his kick unusual range. In a quirk that borders on supernatural, Phelps apparently produces just half the lactic acid of a typical athlete — and since lactic acid causes fatigue, he’s simply better equipped at a biological level to excel in his sport.
I’m thinking of those stories, because I’m thinking about the ways Michael Phelps was treated as wondrous marvel. Nobody suggested he should be forced to have corrective surgery on his double-jointed ankles, nobody decided he should take medication to boost his lactic levels.
Which brings us to this week, and to Caster Semenya.