U.S. Olympic track star Michael Johnson thinks that slavery played a major role in helping him become a better athlete. Johnson, who was a gold medalist during the 1990s, discussed his talent with the Daily Mail and attributed most of his athleticism to being a direct descendant of slaves.

“All my life I believed I became an athlete through my own determination,” Johnson said. “But it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations.

Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me — I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”

Johnson also says that black Americans and Afro-Caribbeans are the best athletes in the world because of the brutal nature of slavery.

“Over the last few years, athletes of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American descent have dominated athletics finals. 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?”

Although Johnson’s theory is controversial, there is no scientific proof that slavery allowed black American athletes to thrive over competitors. However, the psychological effects of slavery, overt racism and oppression continue to perpetuate damaging self-images for blacks to this day.

Share your thoughts. Do you believe  Michael Johnson was wrong for linking slavery to athletic superiority, or does he have a valid point?

A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.