For about a decade â€” a time that Olympic historians may someday classify as â€œthe Michael Phelps eraâ€ â€” Iâ€™ve been reading about the unique genetic blessings bestowed upon the greatest swimmer to ever live.Â Phelps possessesÂ 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 â€” and since lactic acid causes fatigue, heâ€™s simply better equipped at a biological level to excel in his sport.
Iâ€™m thinking of those stories, because Iâ€™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.
We celebrated Michael Phelpsâ€™s genetic differences. Why punish Caster Semenya for hers?