Good news for Olympians! Sex before sport WON'T ruin your medal chances
A review of studies found sex doesn't reduce physical strength or enduranceNo research yet on psychological impact of the act
16:33 GMT, 31 July 2012
The ancient Greeks believed athletes should avoid sex before sport, but modern Olympians and scientists are torn over whether abstinence enhances performance.
Many athletes are effectively banned from making love during the Games over fears it will tire them and break their focus.
However, experts from McGill
University in Canada say that so far, having sex has not been found to
reduce physical strength, power or endurance. Meanwhile there have been
no tests to prove it affects psychological performance.
Italy's Federica Pellegrini, pictured yesterday, was reported to answer when asked about sex: 'Abstinence! Are you mad'
Study author Professor Ian Shrier, said: 'When we test people in the lab, we are examining 'tests of performance' but in competition, psychology very likely plays a much more important role.
'Those who claim it decreases performance usually say it is because it decreases focus or aggression or tension. There are no studies that have examined this.'
A review of scientific studies on the issue published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine suggests sex the night before competition has no effect on physiological test results.
In one study, 14 married male former athletes were given a maximum-effort grip strength test the morning after coitus, and the same test after at least 6 days without sex. The results showed neither strength nor endurance of the flexing muscles was adversely affected by sex the previous night.
A follow-up to this study was conducted by researchers at Colorado State University on 10 fit, married men aged between 18 and 45. In their tests for grip strength, balance, lateral movement, reaction time, aerobic power, and VO2 max – a measure oxygen efficiency – sex appeared to make no difference.
A third study conducted in 1995 found having sex 12 hours prior to a fitness test had no significant effects on maximal aerobic power, oxygen pulse or blood pressure.
The greatest: Muhammad Ali versus Richard Dunn in 1976. Ali reportedly went for weeks without sex before a big fight
Despite this other sports also enforce the same rule – during the 1998 football World Cup, the
then English coach Glenn Hoddle famously forbade the squad from having
sex during the month-long event.
Plus in his heyday Boxer Muhammad Ali reportedly went without sex for 6 weeks before a big fight.
There is a theory that sexual frustration makes people more aggressive, and that ejaculation draws testosterone, an athletic performance-related hormone, from the body, has yet to be scientifically proven.
'Even if that theory is correct, most people currently believe there is an optimal level of aggression or focus – too little and you don't do well, too much and you don't do well,' Professor Shrier said.
Martin Milton, a psychology expert at the University of Surrey, said the effect of sex would depend very much on who's doing it, how often, for how long and in what way.
'If it's 'up all night swinging from the rafters' type sex we're talking about, then obviously the athlete is not going to be getting enough sleep or rest and their mind isn't on the job,' he told Reuters.
'So that might well be more the issue than whether or not being involved in a short period of sex might be detrimental to someone's performance.'
At the London 2012 Games, while there might not be much sex being had, it's certainly being talked about.
Australian shooter Russell Mark said he planned to sneak in to see his wife and fellow shooter Lauryn during the games, after they were placed in single sex rooms
Even London Mayor Boris Johnson is getting in on the act, telling reporters last week he wants the Olympics to “inspire a generation” not “create a generation”.
The Australian team hit the headlines when its committee decided shooter Russell Mark could not share a room in the athletes' village with his wife and fellow shooting competitor Lauryn Mark.
Mark, a six-time Olympian and double trap gold medallist in the 1996 Atlanta Games, said he was planning to sneak off in the night to see his wife.
The Australian Olympic Committee played down the furore, saying allowing the couple to share would inconvenience other female athletes.
In Italy, sports fans have been fascinated by the pre-race activities of the nation's best-known sportswoman, Federica Pellegrini, who won a gold medal in the 200 metres freestyle at the Beijing 2008 Games.
Her boyfriend, fellow Italian swimmer Filippo Magnini, told magazine Chi they would be avoiding sex before Pellegrini's London races.
Pellegrini, 23, who once appeared naked and painted in gold on the cover of Vogue, was not so sure.
'Abstinence!” she said. “Are you mad'
However, all bets are off when the
medal ceremony is over – 150,000 condoms have been handed out to the 10,500
athletes competing at the London Games.