A provocative thought

1963: most of you probably weren’t born. But one of the greatest news items was the Great Train Robbery In Great Britain. A group of 15 men stopped a mail train that also transported money and robbed it from 2.6 million pounds (with correction today’s value would be around 60 million Euro-divided by 15 is 4 million Euro per person).
The train driver got a knock on the head, nobody was killed and nothing was damaged. The robbers were sentenced to up to 30 years in jail.

Now it’s 2016: three officials of FIFA, Blatter, Valcke and Kattner robbed 71 million Euro (and still counting) of the organization they were supposed to lead and support. For this job they were handsomely paid. Divided by 3 this makes around 24 million Euro a person.
They regarded the federation they were supposed to govern as their personal wallet where they could take out money when and as much as it pleased them. Non-aggressive psychopaths. Just the same brand like the former president of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, his son, and their little gang, and they are not the only ones out there.

Still, none of these three is in jail nor will they spend the next 30 years in jail. My idea is that they won’t even see the inside of a jail at all. Kattners contract was terminated and Blatter and Valcke are banned from football-related activities for 8 and 12 years. Wow, that will teach them.

But what is wrong here socially speaking?
Maybe you remember Marion Jones, who spent time in jail as a result of her taking illegal performance enhancing agents. One of the athletes I coached, Erik Wijmeersch, has spent some time in jail, but was later acquitted of all charges.
I have been busting my brain about this (maybe I should start using nootropics) why this tremendous inequality in justice exists. Why officials can get away with serious offences and athletes in the meanwhile have to face jail and other disproportionate punishments for something like taking doping. How can we still talk about justice, or about level playing field. What surprises me even more that very few people in sports speak out about this.
I just read a book by a good colleague of mine, Frank Schaper , The Dictator Virus, (in Dutch) in which he meticulously analyzes the behavior of dictators past to present.

 Het Dictator Virus - Frank Schaper

Het Dictator Virus – Frank Schaper

He concluded that that dictators show ten similar characteristics:
• megalomania
• self-enrichment (71 million Euro)
• cult-like behavior
• self-justification (everything is alright)
• fraud
• propaganda (the first international World Forum of Ethics in Sports was hosted by FIFA)
• conservation of power (stay in power as long as possible)
• expansionism
• secrets
• rule by terror or fear

Apart from the last factor, the people mentioned above display 9 out of 10 characteristics.

Since many sports politicians are talking about “cleaning up the sport”, why just not start at the very top?
A suggestion could be to bring the death penalty back for people who damage society on this scale. It happens. Government officials or CEO’s have been executed for economic crimes like embezzlement, bribery or even attempt of fraud. Execution is perceived as a way to get rid of incurable psychopaths, predators and dictators. Remember the Ceaucescu’s and Ghadaffi. ‘Good riddance’ as the British say.

My call to the people at the top of the sports federations is to demand the most severe punishment available. Not by sports arbitration and not some cowardly symbolic punishment, but to file suit at a criminal court. The coming months will show how the sports federations are taking stance in this case: are they ready to really and seriously change the world of sports or will it be a slap on wrist and just looking away.

Provocative thought, like I stated.

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These days the crusade against doping is in full swing. It started last century almost at the same time the war on drugs , the war on cancer and the war on terrorism started. Any intelligent person reading papers or watching TV knows the last three ended up as total failures: drugs are rampant, cancer isn’t eradicated (just less people died from lung cancer because we stopped smoking), and terrorism? Enough said.

Maybe the world of sports just isn’t smart enough to see the writing on the wall: the war on doping will also end up as an expensive failure, where the cure is worse than the disease. Think about the Prohibition, one of the largest social experiments ever performed, involving millions of Americans, and again, a total disaster in its effects.
It‘s not because I like it to go this way, no, it’s just predictable because of human history, human psychology and human biology and the sooner we realize that, the less damage will be done.
I won’t bore you, at least not this time, with the history, the numbers and the trends. But I can tell you one thing, while the doping testers still think they are getting closer to catching athletes, in reality they have to rely on tricks like changing the banned list (meldonium), test for useless substances that do not enhance performance to a justifiable extent (methylgeranamine) , or do retrospective testing of samples of 8 years ago, (8, why not 30 years? ). Apparently gene doping will be next.

And there are new trends, one of them is brain-doping. Since the brain, in my opinion, is the largest and most important performance organ of the athlete, not the heart, the muscle, or the fascia.
Brain-doping has a long history, outside of sports. It started with “nootropics”, originally substances protecting the brain against damage and aging, and preventing cognitive deficits like dementia and Alzheimer. These drugs were later popularized as “smart drugs”. Not by athletes, but very popular with students and people who have to perform cognitive work, thinking, studying, or memorizing. A few of these are on the banned list, but most of them are not. Amazing: in a competitive environment like academia, where Nobel prizes are like Olympic medals, where publishing is like competing, and where jobs and positions are not for grabs, nobody really seems to care about this advantage by using smart drugs or your colleagues getting smarter than you and taking your position. There is no call for a “brain-doping-test” at any university. Level playing field? Yes, great idea, but not in academia.
I am sure that it won’t take long for the sports doping testers to put more of these compounds on the banned list, since they can be detected.

Unfortunately, doping-testers don’t use smart-drugs themselves otherwise they would have thought about another new way of enhancing performance, which some extremely smart people (even without the use of smart drugs) use to enhance performance in athletes: electro-doping.
I kind of gave a small introduction into this in my last blogpost. Most people think about chemical substances in order to change or improve biochemical processes in the body. But electromagnetic waves can do the same and better.
Many of us are familiar with the use of electric or electromagnetic applications e.g. EMS (Charlie Francis) to increase muscle strength, decrease pain or improve recovery.

For many years, again, outside of sports, scientists have researched the effects of electricity and electromagnetic field on brain functioning. The electroshock is probably the most known and most frightening example. The last decade, due to technical developments, applications like TDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) have gained popularity. But also as a spin-off of the nootropic movement (people trying to become smarter through pharmacology and technology). They have experimented influencing their brain functioning by means of electricity and electromagnetic waves. The late Michael Hutchinson (Megabrain) was one of the pioneers in this field.

In 1986 I coincidentally met with Jose Maria Rodriguez -Delgado, one of the most important scientists who worked with brain stimulation. He made it to the front page of the New York Times by modifying the brain activity of a bull in the bullring. He did this by sending signals telemetrically into the brain of the bull with a sender and receiver system. This way he could make the bull run and stop at his command. A good example of how complex behavior can be modified by electric signals, even at a distance.

Delgado in action

Delgado in action

In 2004 during, an International Space Medicine Congress, I met with prof. Lebedev from Russia, who already had being doing research on the effects of electric brain stimulation for decades. He used it to induce sleep, decrease pain and increase the output of endorphins.

Prof.Lebedev and his equipment

Prof.Lebedev and his equipment

My problem with most of these technologies is the fact that they use one frequency, one waveform and one application only, and most often not a resonance frequency, so a more sophisticated use is not possible.
A small smart group of people (they don’t need nootropics) working in sport, are using these technologies to enhance performance in an effective, safe and legal way by stimulating the brain with different electromagnetic waveforms, frequencies and application forms.

I know your first question: does it really work? Well, don’t believe me on my word and go out and search and research for yourself. The scientific valid research is out there, don’t expect to become an Einstein, Feynman or Hawking overnight using these technologies, or in sports, to become Michael Jordan or Usain Bolt in a few hours.

Here is some reading as an introduction only to start with:

J.M.Delgado : Physical Control of the Mind, 1969. Harper Torch Books, 1969.

M.Hutchinson: Megabrain – new tools and techniques for brain growth and mind expansion. Ballantine Books, 1986.

Snyder, A: Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information; Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B Vol. 364, 2009, pg. 1399–1405.

Chi, R; Snyder,A : Facilitate Insight by Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation; Plos One, February 2011, Volume 6, Issue 2, e16655

C.Miniussi; W.Paulus; P.M.Rossini ; Transcranial Brain Stimulation; CRC Press, 2013.

J.Horstman ; Brave New Brain Scientific American, 2010.

George M.S. Stimulating the Brain, Sci.Am.Sept 2003, pg. 33-39.

Bolognini, N; Pascual-Leone, A; Fregni, F: Using non-invasive brain stimulation to augment motor training-induced plasticity; Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, doi:10.1186/1743-0003- 6-8

Davis, N.J: Neurodoping: Brain Stimulation as a Performance-Enhancing Measure; Sports Med. DOI 10.1007/s40279-013-0027-z

Goodall, S, Gowatson, G; Homer, L; Ross, E: Transcranial magnetic stimulation in sport science – A commentary; Eur.J.Sports Sci. DOI:10.1080/17461391.2012.704079

Fomin, R; Sergeev, V: Nesterik, ;, Kosminin, V: Effect of intense muscular activity on motor potentials under magnetic stimulation of brain and spinal cord; J. Hum. Sport Exerc. Vol. 5, No. 3, 2010, pp. 348-357.

Reis, J; Schambra, H.M; Cohen, L.G; Buch, E.R; Fritsch, B; Zarahn, E; Celnik, P.A; Krakauer, J.W: Non-invasive cortical stimulation enhances motor skill acquisition over multiple days through an effect on consolidation Proc.Nat Acad. Sci. doi_10.1073_pnas.0805413106

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It’s about time.

It’s about time I start writing blogposts again. The only thing that stopped me from doing this was lack of time. How did I spend my time? Here is part of the answer:

I downloaded numerous books since my last post. Downloading is a fast process. Scanning books, scanning the contents and reading them is a different story. As you might have guessed: next to work and obligations, I spent every spare minute of my time reading. I admit, maybe a bit obsessive-compulsive, but reading books is more gratifying than e.g. washing your hands x times a day.

Books are warehouses of information and experiences. Sometimes, a whole life with its knowledge, experiences, thoughts and emotions, is condensed into a few pages of paper, and one can read it in a few hours only. Yes, that’s how I have spent a large part of my life and still do. Learning from the experiences and mistakes of others instead of making them myself again.

I like to read about sports and training, of course, but I have a wide interest in other subjects as well.
And besides reading I am in the process of finishing my book about sprinting, my first publication in English. I try not to write about the things that have already been published in other books, nor writing a textbook. It is rather personal account of my quest for speed. It will be edited by Ultimate Athlete Concepts and will be published this summer.

And here is my “new obsession”. To be honest, it isn’t really new to me, and I prefer to call it an “interest” instead of obsession.
It is: bio-electromagnetism, as a part of biophysics, the interaction between the processes in our body and our cells and the electromagnetic wave spectrum that surrounds us as produced by nature or man-made.
We often think of life and our living body as being a structure or matter only. We can see, feel and touch it. Maybe we even recognize the dynamical biochemical processes. We can’t see them, but we can measure and imagine them (ever seen a Krebs cycle of glycolysis working in real life?).

At a higher level, biophysical processes seem to be just as important and at least as interesting. The problem is that we normally can’t see or feel them in daily life (unless you put your finger in an electrical socket or get hit by lightning). Even measuring them is hard without expensive equipment. Still….think about what we really measure if we measure ECG (heart), EMG (muscle), or EEG (brain). Right…. electric currents. We also image the body through X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, again…. electromagnetic waves. And what about the often used therapies such as ultrasound, diathermy, hyperthermia, infrared, laser, EMS and quite a few others.

You are starting to get my drift: we already use many different parts of the electromagnetic wave spectrum. Even in college we learned about synapses, the membrane potentials, etc. We know it exists and we know it is important.
I have been measuring these processes for a long time, but found it time for a deeper study. If the functioning of our body and our cells is dependent on electro-magnetic properties, how can we use these to our advantage for health improvement or for performance enhancement.

In the past many brilliant researchers and doctors have, independent of each other, found that within the spectrum of electromagnetic waves many positive effects have been documented. Of course, there are waves that can cause harm as well, depending on the frequencies, intensity and exposure time. Powerlines, radar waves and even the waves coming from mobile phones may be able to cause harm.
Still, many of the positive applications have been neglected, discarded or even destroyed by the medical establishment. Imagine: a therapy that works, that is cheap, that has no side effects and can cure a multitude of health problems.
This forms a real threat to the most powerful lobby in the world: the pharmaceutical industry. One of the tactics is to call those, often brilliant, researchers “quacks” and discard their concepts and techniques as being quackery or fraud. No support is given to their breakthrough discoveries.
Am I exaggerating? Read the stories of Georges Lakhovsky, Royal Rife or more recently Anthony Holland.

The common concept is that each cell possesses a specific resonance frequency. Just like a crystal glass: when hit with the right (resonance-) frequency, the crystal glass can be shattered by e.g. a human voice.
This well-known fact contains two important pieces of information:
1. this only happens at the right specific frequency, not at other frequencies, and
2. at that specific frequency only that glass will shatter, not the window or glass vase.

And not only glass can be destroyed, also different germs or viruses can be destroyed at the right frequency.
Resonance frequencies can be used to destroy structures, but it can also be used to entrain, modify or normalize other biological structures and cells as well. This is why we can use pulsed electromagnetic fields to accelerate the healing of bone tissue in the case of fractures, or use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to stimulate or inhibit neurons in the brain. The membrane potential and even the activity of receptors can be changed under the influence of electromagnetic waves.
In other words: when you start to enter the field of bio electromagnetics, a whole new world of opportunities might open for you.

-Georges Lakhovsky: The Secret of Life; Heinemann, GBr, 1939.
-Barry Lynes: Rife’s World of Electromedicine; BioMed Publishing group, USA, 2009.

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Will this be the end of track and field as we know it?

Having been involved in track and field for 30 years, up to 2004, it is almost impossible to ignore the recent total confusion and the destruction of one of the most beautiful sports: track and field. Open any news medium and the scandals of doping and corruption will fly into your face.

Whenever the smoke will clear from this battlefield, we will see the real causes and the results of it.
Right now the cry for an intensified “War on Doping” is louder than ever before.

In my opinion, this so-called “War on Doping” is doomed to fail from the very start, it’s obvious if you look back into recent history.

Take the “War on Cancer”, the “War on Drugs” declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, or the “War on Terrorism”. Which of these have we won and if you see a victory somewhere, what price have we paid for that? Cancer is far from eradicated, more drugs are sold and used than when the “War on Drugs” started, and the “War on Terrorism” isn’t very successful either, if you ask me, just watch the news and get the hard data. The expression the War on…. always comes from clever politicians who want generate credibility, attention, more power, and of course money by just creating or enlarging a problem. No, I am far from a hippie, and politics is hardly my cup of tea for if it was only for this very reason described above. But at least I am a keen reader about history, psychology and biology.

Facts: think only about one of the biggest social experiments ever done in this area: the Prohibition in the US, banning alcohol for religious, social and health reasons, from 19 20-1933. But the final results of it were: more people died from alcohol than ever before, more people died from criminal violence, it was the springboard for the birth of organized crime, since it placed the production of alcohol in the hands of criminals, just as happened in the “War on Doping”. The Prohibition also created disrespect for the law, and corruption flourished, since crime and politics found each other really fast.

Not a miracle that the Prohibition was stopped after society paid a tremendous price. We can observe the same in the ban of cannabis or marihuana. It started with the brainwashing of the general public with “Reefer madness”, the idea that use of cannabis would lead to most awful mental derangements possible and would turn innocent youth into murderous thugs.

In the US, all use of cannabis was banned, starting in 1937. In Holland, however we got a lot of criticism for our tolerant view on cannabis use, calling it a “soft drug”, compared to hard drugs like cocaine, crack, alcohol, nicotine or heroine. At least it worked very well for our tourist industry, since millions of young US tourists have visited Amsterdam for smoking a joint in a coffee shop, and killing sprees from reefer madness have not been seen or went by unnoticed. Recently cannabis was legalized or decriminalized in some states in the US as well, saving society billions of dollars, if it was only for not having to put thousands of young people into prison for smoking a joint. Polls show that 58% of the US population in support of the legalization of cannabis. One expects legalization to happen in democratic society if the majority is for it.

It’s not up to me to choose for legalization of performance enhancing agents in elite sport.
It would be a bad choice, but I am old enough to know that many choices in life aren’t about “good” or “bad”, but about “bad” or “worse”. Even though it seems to be an out-of-the box-solution in a time where the sports politicians prefer to sit safely inside the box and keep the lid firmly closed. They prefer to keep themselves far away from reality in sports and from a better solution than the dead-end street of repression, They prefer draconic punishments to the extent of the destruction of elite sport, as it is happening right now. But even the end of elite sports will not lead to an end of the use of illegal substances in sports in general.

Far from being an expert in this matter I would like to ask some simple but uncomfortable questions, mostly answered by silence:
Is a total clean sport possible, can we put the ghost back into the bottle?

And if yes,at what price? A totalitarian police state springs to mind, a total control over the communication and even the lives of athletes?
But…. in the same line of thought: will we see “clean” sport officials and politicians being free of corruption, fraud, theft, whitewashing, and other criminal acts or will they still have to prevail.
Why is there a strict liability for athletes only and not for officials or sports officials and politicians?
Why do so few fraudulent sports politicians appear before court, why no draconic punishments there?
Why the call for so called “independent” control institutes or “integrity taskforces”, or “authorities”?
Does independent mean: there is nobody to control THEM? As the saying goes: “If it’s worth winning, it’s worth cheating”. This applies to athletes as well as to the people waging the “War on Doping”.
Why are they not controlled? Or like the expression goes: who chooses these individuals, who guards these “guardians”?

Sports organizations are ruled mainly by lawyers and politicians, who are very good in making rules for others and interpreting these rules as far as themselves are concerned. Do you still know somebody at that level who isn’t a lawyer of politician? Looking for the general and mutual benefits for everybody involved in sports is seldom an issue for them. One can hardly find a visionary person there, who is able to think and act beyond the predictable knee-jerk-reflex responses they display most of the time.

But here is the real bad thing about: it’s US that made all of this possible, by being ignorant, silent and allowed this system to persist. We gave away our control to people we rusted to do their job. In other words, all involved in athletics guilty to the situation that is developing now.


Thornton, M: Alcohol Prohibition was a failure; Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 157, 1991.

Thornton, M: The Economics of Prohibition; University of Utah Press, USA, 1991.

Okrent, D: Last Call. The Rise and Fall of Prohibition; Simon & Schuster, USA, 2010.

Miron J.A; Zwiebel, J: Alcohol Consumption during Prohibition; The American Economic Review, Vol. 81, No. 2, 1991, pg. 242-247.

Blackwell, T: Is the war on cancer an ‘utter failure’?: A sobering look at how billions in research money is spent; National Post, Canada, March 15, 2013.

Faguet, G: The War on Cancer. An Anatomy of Failure, A Blueprint for the Future, Springer, 2005.

Lynch, T.(Ed.) After Prohibition – An adult approach to drug policies in the 21st century; CATO Institute, 2001.

Hari, J: Chasing the Scream; The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs; epub.

McVay, D.A: Drug War Facts; Common Sense for Drug Policy, 2006, http://www.csdp.org/

Mendoza, M: US War On Drugs Has Met None Of Its Goals: Associated Press , May 13, 2006.

“The drug war is lost”; Interview with Milton Friedman, in “Der Spiegel”, 14/1992.

Sekulic, D: Why are we losing the war against doping? In fact, do we want to win at all?; JAHR, European Journal of Bioethics, Vol.2, No.3, 2011, pg.293-301.

Lopez, B: Anti-doping cheating? The manufacture of truth in the war against drugs in

Moeller, V: DiMeo, P: Anti-doping – the end of sport; International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2014, pg. 259–272.

Moeller, V; DiMeo, P: Anti-Doping: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?; http://www.theouterline.com

Moeller, V: Who Guards the Guardians?; The International Journal of the History of Sport, 31:8; 2014, pg.934-950.

Lopez, B: Creating fear: the ‘doping deaths’, risk communication and the anti-doping
campaign; International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 2013.

Fincoeur, B; Van de Ven, K; Mulrooney, K.J.D; The symbiotic evolution of anti-doping and supply chains of doping substances: how criminal networks may benefit from anti-doping policy; Trends Organ Crim, 2014; DOI 10.1007/s12117-014-9235-7.

Dimeo, P; Moeller, V; Think the war on doping is a force for good? Its ideals have been compromised all along; The Conversation, March 4, 2015.

Hermann, A; Henneberg, M: Anti-Doping Systems in Sports are Doomed to Fail: A Probability and Cost Analysis; J Sports Med Doping Stud, Vol.4, No.5, 2014, pg. 1-12.

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But what about genes?

Every athlete, better said, every living organism is the result of the genes of his/her parents. It’s our genetic blueprint, or the “map” on which we can have an overview where we can go and where not, before we travel. As coaches we spend almost 90% of our time thinking about and tinkering with our programs. That is necessary, absolutely, but in my opinion it equally necessary to look at the individual you are applying this training to. One of the founders of modern medicine Dr. William Osler once stated: “It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” Or in our language: it is more important to know what sort of athlete you want to train than to what kind of training you apply to the athlete.

Very often we still think along the line of “One size fits all”. We listen to sport scientists who try to convince us that training method A is better than training method B. In my opinion this is irrelevant, at least for elite athletes. Often we see this in weight loss diets, some people swear by a certain diet, because they lost weight, while others don’t lose weight or even gain weight with the same diet. How can that be? Well it’s simple: the diet fits the genetic blueprint of the people who benefit from it, while the same diet doesn’t work for people who have a different predisposition. Your superfood might be my poison. In training we see the same thing happen all the time: some athletes really benefit from a given program, others don’t or get injured. Again: looking at the genetic blueprint of the athletes might prevent this from happening.

I have always been interested in the genetic part of sports training but until recently, genetic testing was too expense, and not well established yet. This has now changed.

So, yes, genetic testing: what speaks against it?
I hear a lot of people speak out against genetic testing, at least for athletes.
Arguments I hear are: “Genes are irrelevant it’s gene expression that is important” . Well expressing genes is what was we already do on a daily base, we call it: training. But what if you don’t have the right genes to express or if you are the expression of the wrong genes? You can’t train a donkey the way you train a racehorse. And from a distance we can see that the donkey has a different genetic make-up from a race horse. In humans is more difficult. From the outside the difference is not as clear as with the donkey and the race horse. We cannot see whether an athlete is born to sprint, to lift, to play soccer or to run the marathon. Winners come in all sizes and types, because performance is complex and there is a lot of room for compensation. A simple example is high jump: being tall is an advantage – high center of mass. But if you aren’t you might still beat a tall high jumper by e.g. being more explosive or having a better technique. In other words, you (over-)compensate your lack of height. But here is the catch: only if you are suited to be explosive and to train and improve explosiveness. If you are short and not explosive you will have very hard time compensating these two factors by having a better technique. So the jumper who is tall, AND explosive AND has a good technique has the best change to reach the top. Of course you can increase explosiveness a lot, but not everybody to the same extent.

Another argument is: “Genetic testing is not yet fully developed, we don’t know enough yet, only maybe 1%.” My argument is simple: “than you wait until we know everything about genes and genetics which might be another 100 years, the choice is yours!” What do we know about the brain or even about the muscle? If you read enough you will see we know surprisingly little about the brain and the muscle. It does not stop us from working with it on a daily basis. I like to work with what we have even it is a little or not enough, as long as what we have is solid enough to work for my practical application.

Genetic testing will not replace other information I have about the athlete’s structures and functioning, I will just have more information.

Genetic testing will not test whether you are going to run 9.90 or 9.60 in the 100 meters. Nor will it tell you if you are going to be a top level soccer player. This last one is impossible anyway, because an excellent forward might be a lousy goal keeper, just because the functional demands, and thus the profiles, are so different.
“There are many genes that determine performance”. Absolutely true! Complex factors like speed, endurance or coordination are controlled by hundreds or maybe even thousands of genes. But could that stop us from starting to work with the ones we know? Every journey starts with the first step, and so is the solving of the genetic puzzle. Again, do you want to wait until that whole puzzle is solved? That’s good too!

As coaches we realize certainty does not exist in elite sports. We are looking at probability, increasing our chances to create successful athletes. We can deal with this uncertainty better than scientists, they only act when things are known (evidence-based). Elite performances let’s say world record levels, are an unexplored territory. Nobody has ever gone there, so nobody has the experience of being there even Usain Bolt doesn’t know what it is to run 9.30. Nobody has the experience, no evidence, so we have to do without, but we can live with that. Basically what we do is “thin slicing”, which is making an adequate judgment about a situation or a person with the least amount of information. (How big, or rather how small a slice of cake do you need to taste in order to know if the cake tastes good or bad?)

Here is another example: aspirin, who doesn’t know it? In 1898 Felix Hoffman synthesized aspirin, but only in 1971 John Vane won the Nobel Prize for unraveling the mechanism of aspirin (through prostaglandins). Between 1898 and 1971 millions of people took aspirin without having a clue about why it worked. What they knew however, was more important: it worked (and no, not for everybody, and yes, there are side effects and precautions). Lack of scientific knowledge is not always a limitation for the proper use of ideas, tools, techniques or substances.
We limit ourselves to genes we have adequate knowledge of, there is no forecasting of genetic defects leading to pathology. We have doctors for that. We stay away from pathology.

We cannot monitor training by genetic testing. Our genetic blueprint is rather static and does not change by training. What does change, however, is the gene expression, and in future this will be a valuable tool as well. Genetic testing gives where to go and where not, it can save us from wasting valuable and limited resources like time, energy and money by trial-and-error, or trying to train donkeys thinking we have race horses at hand.

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Goodbye 2015, welcome 2016.

It has been a while since my last post, for the very simple reason of being too busy to write a decent post. I am shocked to see that it is almost 6 weeks ago.
The good side of this is, I have been traveling, lecturing and learning a lot and reading more new articles and books than before. For those who do not know yet, I am also writing some guest post for the Omegawave blog. Also I am finishing a simple book about speed training (in English) to be published by Ultimate Athlete Concepts, probably the best training book publisher in the market.https://www.facebook.com/Ultimate-Athlete-Concepts-138502616186652/

A few highlights: lecturing for the Global Hamstring project: the 2nd international seminar with some incredible knowledgeable lecturers. Here is the link to a short videoclip of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPqn9Jd2Pz0

It was an invitation of my good friend Per Tesch, one of the world leading brains as far as muscle and strength training are involved. He is together with Hans Berg one of the designers of the flywheel- system, originally intended for use in space as being gravity-independent. His Yo-Yo machine is the “Coca-Cola” of the flywheels, now called NHANCE.

Per also wrote the interesting book, Muscle Meets Magnet, in which he researched muscle recruitment by putting athletes in an fMRI, doing an exercise, and again making an MRI and measuring the difference, which is the best way to see which muscle(-s) participate in an exercise.
This is interesting since most of the time we just assume that an exercise will involve certain muscle groups and as the books shows, many times we are wrong.

The same was revealed (by the same fMRI procedure) for different hamstring exercises and here is what might be a shocker for many of you: the popular Nordic hamstring exercise (which isn’t Nordic at all) is an almost useless exercise when it comes to adequately strengthening the hamstrings at least for prevention of hamstring injuries in sport.

One of the lecturers also showed video clips of the best new set of exercises I have seen in a long time, working with the best European soccer players. Some of these guys are 10 years ahead of the rest of the field. We work with flywheels since 15 years, but only recently the US embraced flywheel training as being “new, revolutionary and innovative”. Also with vibration training we were 5-8 years ahead when the US S&C community discovered vibration training.

Amazing that in this time of the “Internet”, the information about new developments still travels at snail speed and it still takes years to discover, leave alone embrace, new ideas and tools. Most of the time only when many copycats and me-too products start to flood the market. Despite our innovative image, coaches are rather conservative, and seldom belong to the true innovators or even early-adapters. We just prefer to jump on the busy bandwagon. On the balance of risk-taking and experimenting at one side, and “wait-and-see-what-everybody-else-does. on the other side, we coaches often choose the last option. Most people who talk about out-of-the-box-thinking prefer to sit cozily inside that box, and keep the lid firmly closed, one never knows, what might happens outside.

This week I met with one of my former athletes, I might say a kind of guinea pig for me, since I have always been working with sprinters up to 400 meter and 400 meter hurdles, the 800meters were a sort of unexplored territory and endurance plays as much a role as speed or explosiveness. Her name is Letitia Vriesde from Surinam And I must say, one of the toughest and most dedicated athletes I ever coached.

Letitia going for silver in 1.56.65 World Championships 1995 Goteborg (2nd from right)

Letitia going for silver in 1.56.65 World Championships 1995 Goteborg (2nd from right)

The funny thing was that, even though, training with me brought her the first medals indoor and outdoor in the 800 meters and also two personal bests (indoor and outdoor) she always doubted if we were doing enough work for the 800 meters.
Are you sure this is enough work, shouldn’t I be doing some more reps, shouldn’t I be doing some morning runs as well? Now, one seldom gets medals for how long you run, or how many miles you make, most of the time it is about how fast you run. With these results I think my hypotheses about 800 meter running were confirmed, since we only work with cases, not with groups. Probably more than in any other event it is important to know if the athletes is explosive or endurance oriented, (for the 100 meter or the marathon it is quite obvious and one-sided)

No need to say the period is one of family and friends and so last week I visited my mother to celebrate Christmas. She has been involved in local and national sports organization for a long time and many athletes have spent time in her house. She is now 85 years old, grows orchids, recently took computer classes (Henk, have you ever heard of Google?) and she started painting, even though her joints and so her hands are ruined by rheumatoid arthritis for many years now. But she is not a person to give up easily and an example for me. One of my favorite paintings of her below.

Tulips from Holland

Tulips from Holland

Wishing all my readers, a healthy, happy and successful 2016!

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The beginning of the end for athletics?

The last couple of weeks we heard how WADA, or at least its director David Howman, basically pleaded for criminal prosecution of doping-athletes. This plea was well received by and even supported by many high-level sports executives in their quest to abolish the “doping demon”. This week the world of athletics got a big “surprise”. Lamine Diack, ex-president of the IAAF, was arrested on suspicion of having “whitewashed” hundreds of positive doping-tests for money. And so was long-term anti-doping doctor Gabriel Dolle.

Surprisingly the voices of sport executives are not heard anymore. No demand for prison sentences or steep fines from that side. Could it be that the taking of doping-substances by athletes is considered a much higher level of “crime” than being instrumental in covering up hundreds of positive tests and getting a handsome sum of money to do so. Many people suspect this is only the tip of the corruption iceberg within the IAAF.

Nobody is asking for a Lance Armstrong-like treatment for Diack and Dolle: i.e. paying back not only the bribes they received, but also their salaries since they failed what they were paid for. So far nobody has had the guts to stand up and demand a long term imprisonment for Gabriel Dolle who has been in charge of anti-doping for the longest time, even David Howman is silent now.

All this once again raises the important question: who controls the controllers and who applies justice to the makers of the rules?

The gap between these two levels in sports, the athletes and the executives, seems to be widening rapidly. The athletes are requested to give up their civil rights in order to participate in their sports, are subject to more and more demonic rules and regulations and have very little opportunity to defend themselves. Let alone to speak openly about this without being subjected to scrutiny of the anti-doping authorities. And then the executives, who can lie, cheat, embezzle and / or whitewash money, be corrupt and show no integrity at all.


Often they escape with a slap on the wrist or even unpunished. often they are only transferred to another important position in sport. No threats of fines, or prison terms here, no demands of returning the money. The IOC just recommended a lame, provisional suspension from the IOC for Diack………

Justice is only a joke when applied in this way. Justice was never meant to protect the strong and crack down hard on the weak. There is the misconception that athletes lie and cheat and sport executives do not.

The current policy of these executives is one of total destruction. It is the beginning of the destruction of the sport as we know it. One can just hope that I am wrong, time will tell.

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Shock and memories.

I am still in touch with most of the athletes I coached. Some of them regularly, some of them once a year, but in many cases our last workout together was 20-30 years ago. But I also lost contact with some of them simply because they moved, sometimes to another country.

One of the athletes I lost contact with is Ronald Desruelles. In the past years when I asked other people who knew him, nobody knew where he was or what happened to him, he seemed to have disappeared. He was one of the most gifted and also nicest athletes I ever worked with. I coached him from 1986-1988.

With Ronald before a competition

With Ronald before a competition

Ronald was an excellent sprinter (P.B. 100m 10.02 secs, 200m 20.66 secs, he also jumped 8.08 meter in the long jump and ran 60 meter indoors in 6.56 secs).

He became European indoor champion in the 60 meters in Madrid in 1986, was 6th in the World Indoor Championships 60 meters in Indianapolis in 1987 and won silver at the European Indoor Championships in Budapest in 1988.

As an athlete he was born to sprint and to jump, very explosive and elastic, a human kangaroo.

Ronald in training

Ronald in training

This week, I learned why I lost contact with him, he had moved from Belgium to Thailand and became the owner of three restaurants there. The bad news however is that he has taken his own life, most probably as the newspaper article said, because he could no longer cope with the financial burden of the restaurants which that weren’t doing too well.

This news must have been a big shock to all who knew him, and in my case trained with him. If there would have been anything I could have done to help him, I surely would have done so.
I got to know him as a very gentle and almost shy personality, proud, and with a great sense of humor. Somehow he found the balance between enjoying life and being dedicated to the sport and the training. He was a handsome athlete and always attracted female attention, which was the cause of many anecdotes. I fondly remember going to training camps with him, he was great addition to any group.
I feel sorry for the family and friends he left behind. No matter how fast he was, somehow he could not outrun the harsh reality of life. But Ronald has not disappeared, he is now on the outside looking in and he is still here in our memories.

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Could it be genetic?

As a young coach I was educated with the idea that genetic factors were the limitations to performance: “you can’t turn a donkey into a race horse”. Irrelevant statement: donkeys do not race against race horses.

More puzzling were the observations that some athletes seemed to response so well to a certain training program while others barely improved with the same program.
It’s not difficult to observe a large inter-individual variation in training responses. Nor is it hard to see ct that one-size-fits-all does not work optimally for everyone and that every individual athlete needs an individual training program or in a broader sense, an optimal environment to thrive.

In the same line of thinking is the fact that this idea also applies to nutrition: some people can eat a lot of calories without gaining weight while others can only eat a few calories and still gain weight.
Also here: one man’s superfood can be another man’s poison.

There are ways to find out what the individual response to training or diet is: coincidence, trial-and-error or taking estimated guesses. Science won’t help us a lot, as scientific research tends to average the results of individual responses. Most of the time we look at (bio-)markers of individual progress, which is also not an easy task, since there are any different variables that influence the results.
For example: for explosive sports we might look at jumping height, other strength parameters, and of course competition results, to see if our training is heading in the right direction. For many of our athletes things seem to go well, but what if an athlete stops making progress, what could be the cause? Yes, many factors can be taken into account, but one factor is difficult to judge: the genetic factor. Maybe our training program is not optimal for the specific genetic design of the athlete: physiologically, biochemically, hormonally, psychologically, etc.

Already in 1970, I wanted to perform genetic tests on athletes, but only in 2003 the human genome was unraveled and it took another 10 years for genetic testing to become feasible for coaches (reliability and pricing).
The procedure of genomic testing is simple: just have the athlete swab their cheeks. But then, trouble starts: even though the results might be accurate, the interpretation and practical meaning is not. Here are some practical hiccups: even though the genetic predisposition of the athletes is of the explosive power type (according to ACTN-3), there is still huge difference in muscle type composition between the different muscle groups in the human body.

One other methodological problem is the associations between certain qualities and the genomic design. Some labs will tell you having gene A might predicts a 80% probability of a certain quality or disease. But another lab will tell you gene A only will give you a 20% probability of the same quality or disease.
It depends on the population from which the samples are taken, since many qualities depend on environmental influences as well. So in one country one might have a gene with a 80% chance, since other environmental influences are not present or have a negative amplifying effect. While in the 20% example the same gene is expressed less in that particular population since there are positively amplifying factors like, temperature, sunlight, altitude, food, pollution, exercise, lifestyle, smoking, cultural and social habits, etc. And this might explain the difference between the 20% and 80% probability.

And there are more methodological difficulties. All of this does not decrease the value of genetic testing at all, just makes the interpretation more difficult and therefore challenging.
In sports we are not specifically looking for the risk of certain (rare) diseases. We looking for the genetic factors that associate with training and diet. These factors might show that maybe you have been training and/or eating against your genetic design and so your results are negatively affected.

The more we start to know about the human genome , the more we realize it’s not a destiny, but a set of possibilities mainly influenced by the environment. And it are those strong influences , like training and diet that we work with, every day.

A few books:
Collins, M (Ed.): Genetics and Sports; Medicine and Sport Science Vol.54, Karger, 2009.
Pescatello, L.S; Roth, S.M.(Eds.): Exercise Genomics; Humana Press, 2011.
Bouchard, C; Hoffmann, E.P.(Eds.): Genetic and Molecular Aspects of Sports Performance; Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
Wackerhage, H.(Ed.): Molecular Exercise Physiology; Routledge, 2014.

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Hamstring seminar

Since I get requests for the Hamstring seminar, here is the information:




09.00: Per Tesch, PhD. Karolinska Institutet, Founder nHANCE™ driven by YoYo™ Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. ”The Global Hamstring Project”.

09.15: Kristian Berg, Dr. Naprapathy. Rygg & Idrottsskadekliniken, Stockholm, Sweden. ”The underappreciated complex anatomy and function of the hamstring muscle group”.

09.30: Henk Kraaijenhof, Holistic Track & Field Coach, Helping the best to get better. Laren, The Netherlands. ”When hamstring becomes an Achilles’ heel. A practical approach to prevent and treat hamstring problems in athletes”.

10.30: Coffee Break

11.00: Julio Tous Fajardo, PhD. Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Italian National Football Federation, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain. “My approach to prevent hamstring injuries in professional athletes while enhancing speed and agility“.

12.00: Mateja Fritz, RPT. Optimal Fysik, Stockholm, Sweden. “Treating tendon injury and hamstring muscle strain using ultra-sound guided EPI® technique and YoYo™ technology”.

12.15: Srecko Mijatovic. RPT. Cortex Training Center, Belgrad, Serbia. ”Enhancing speed, strength and power and preventing injury with YoYo™ Technology: My Approach!”

12.45: Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalo, PhD. Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. “Exercise models to prevent hamstring injury in elite soccer players. What muscles are actually targeted? An exhaustive study employing functional MRI”.

13:30: Lunch

14.45: Jordi Garcerán, Holistic Sports Coach & Advanced Personal Trainer. Paradise, Mataro, Spain. “Hands-On exercise using YoYo™ technology. My favorite exercises for brute eccentric power or functionality – more than hamstring only”.

16.00: Wrap-up.

Where: TecnoCampus, Mataro (Barcelona), Spain
When: 09.00-16.00; 28/11/2015
Invited: Coaches, Clinicians, Researchers, Athletes, Team Managers
Host: nHANCE™ driven by YoYo™ Technology
How to get there: By car from Barcelona (C-32) or Girona; by train from Pl. Catalunya; by air to either Girona or Barcelona (El Prat).
Where to stay: Ibis, Barcelona Mataro or Hotel Atenea Port Barcelona Mataro, both situated right on the beach.
Attendance Fee: €245 (deadline: 21/10); Early Bird: €195 (deadline: 20/11).
How to Register & Pay: Bank wire transfer to account number (IBAN) SE58 6000 0000 0000 4244 6309; BIC/Swift: HANDSESS; accountant: YoYo Technology AB, Pryssgrand 10, 113 51 Stockholm, Sweden. Important: Provide Name, Title, Affiliation, e-mail and mobile tel along with bank wire transfer copy to info@nhance.se

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