A little bit late, working every day to prepare my lecturing series at EXOS in Phoenix , USA, Oct-17-19) together with my dear colleague Dan Pfaff in a few weeks. But also having difficulties making up my mind about the many subjects to write a post about, but in the end this one came out.
Reindell, Hollmann, Hettinger, Liesen, Keul, Berg, Kindermann, Haralambie, Mellerowicz, Rost, Letzelter, just a few of the German sports scientists who were my heroes from the past. (Because their main work was done before the unification of West and East Germany, I am speaking about West Germany only)
Their books, articles and book chapters fill my bookcases and those of many colleagues. Their work was groundbreaking for our understanding the relationships between exercise, training and physiology and biochemistry. At that time, between the 1950’s and 1990, they were amongst the world’s best scientists in the field of sports. I still read a lot also the German language journals and books. But what happened?
That well of excellent scientific research seems to have dried up. One has to look very hard to find anything that rises above the very mediocre, whereas millions still are spent into sports sciences in Germany.
Basically I have no idea why this happened, just a few clues that might offer a clue.
A few years ago, I was invited the German Sports Science Institute in Cologne, which is supposedly one of the best, to explain the principles of HRV and how it is used in sports practice. I entered the room and the sports scientists came in, and from the first minute was clear it would not go anywhere. In the first place, I was “only” a coach and we all know that a coach can’t be taken seriously, at least not by sports scientists, basically because a coach is not a sport scientist. Second, there was a very clear hierarchy and it was very clear who was the “alpha-scientist” in there, the leader of the Institute, since nobody dared to speak, leave alone to contradict him or correct him.
After 10 minutes he interrupted my talk and said, “I can’t believe it”, and soon after again, ”I don’t believe it”. he kept repeating this, but nothing else came out. Now science is not about believing, that what religion is for. In science we have hard facts and data, researched and published by scientists. Since I am not a scientist myself, and you don’t have to believe me, I still have hundreds or even thousands of scientists and their publications to rely on and to back up what I told there. Maybe he had a bad night’s sleep, maybe he didn’t know anything about HRV or could not accept that others knew more about this than himself, leave alone a simple coach, or maybe he just wanted to show how inferior coaches are compared with himself. In either way he failed, and everybody in the room felt ashamed about his behaviour, you could see from their faces and body language.
To me it didn’t matter because I have met arrogance and ignorance before, walking hand in hand, but what worries me is that this professor is hailed as being the leading figure of German sport sciences!!
And probably that tells part of the story.
Recently I read another example of the current level of German sport science, an article published in a peer reviewed journal and the title is, hold your breath coaches….. “A quantitative approach for assessing significant improvements in elite sprint performance: Has IGF-1 entered the arena?”
Their conclusion is: “we think it is highly plausible that IGF-1 is being abused for performance-enhancing means in professional track and field sprinting”. Myself I think it is also plausible that chicken nuggets have entered the arena too. (or ackee and saltfish)
In other words their message is: we think that behind every world class (sprint)performance there is a drug, and in this case IGF 1.
But the funniest thing is that they present the slightest serious evidence that this is true.
Performances in sprint still increase…… yes
IGF is used to increase sports performances…… yes, no doubts (But does it work? Very doubtful to say the least. Leave alone the fact that one cannot even detect it).
So, since 1 +1 = 2, outstanding sprint performances must be due to the use of IGF 1, isn’t it?
At least one can doubt the seriousness of the peer review process or the reviewers, because this is more a marketing brochure to tell the general public to that the doping problem in sports is huge. And of course that they have the solution (like always): more and more expensive testing.
For me that’s not science, the article belongs here:
So German sport science, let a young generation of sport scientists stand up and step into the foot prints of our great predecessors, and get back on the track. Give us the heroes we need……