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Olympic Champion Michael Johnson: ‘Slavery Has Benefited Descendants Like Me’

Michael Johnson anchors the USA to victory in the Mens 4x400m Relay Final at the Olympic Stadium on Day 15 of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. (Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty)

Michael Johnson anchors the USA to victory in the Mens 4x400m Relay Final at the Olympic Stadium on Day 15 of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. (Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty)

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(CBS) Olympic champion Michael Johnson believes descendants of West African slaves have a “superior athletic gene” that gives black American and Caribbean sprinters an advantage.

“Over the last few years, athletes of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American descent have dominated athletics finals,” Johnson told The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom. “It’s a fact that hasn’t been discussed openly before. It’s a taboo subject in the States but it is what it is. Why shouldn’t we discuss it?”

According to the story, all eight of the 100-meter finalists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics are believed to be descended from slaves. Scientists believe “selective breeding by slave owners and appalling conditions meant that only the strongest slaves endured, creating a group predisposed to record-breaking athletic performance,” the story says.

As part of a documentary on the subject, Johnson had a DNA test to confirm he is of West African descent.

“All my life I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations,” Johnson told The Daily Mail. “Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”

The story also uses reigning Olympic 100-meter champion Usain Bolt as an example. Bolt was born in Trelawny Parish, Jamaica, where British Olympic boss Lord Coe’s plantation-owning ancestor George Hyde Park had 297 slaves.