Could Sex At the Olympics Help Athletes Get a Gold Medal?

Since 1992, the International Olympic Committee has provided hundreds of thousands of condoms to athletes in the Olympic Village, with 150,000 being supplied in 2012 alone.  This meant every athlete could have safe sex 15 times in the three weeks of the Olympic Games, and Durex was happy to lend its name to the cause. But why would such high-caliber athletes be concerned with sex during what could be the pinnacles of their careers?

"[Sex] is all part of the Olympic spirit," said an anonymous former gold medalist and two-time veteran of the Games. "The International Olympic Committee wouldn't say that, but it is, you can't shy away from it. Why do you think they give away so many condoms?"

Ronda Rousey, U.S. Olympic judo bronze medalist in 2008 and current UFC women's bantamweight champion, said, "For girls, it raises your testosterone so I try to have as much sex as possible before I fight, actually."

Even Roman philosopher Pliny The Elder said in 77 A.D., "Athletes when sluggish are revitalized by lovemaking."

So, what's the problem?

Antonio Miguel, head of medical services at the Club Universidad Nacional Pumas, one of the Mexican first division's top soccer clubs, said that coaches in the 1950-60s were more prone to a negative viewpoint regarding their athletes having sex before matches. Even the ancient Greeks as far back as 776 B.C. asserted that abstinence was the key to enhanced performance.

It turns out that there is no evidence that sex could alter an athlete's performance. The myth that sex negatively affects athletic performance appears to have been perpetrated by overbearing, or simply uneducated, coaches.

A recent Reuters study states that "having sex has not been found to reduce physical strength, power or endurance." Maria Cristina Rodríguez Gutierrez, director of sports medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, added that sex only burns between 200 and 300 calories. These calories are minimal when compared to even a regular workout session and can easily be replenished.

Additionally, several athletes abstain from sex during their most rigorous training. For them, sex before a big match could improve their mood marginally.

In fact, intercourse is such a pleasurable experience that it is known to relieve stress. The neurotransmitter dopamine is a prime player in the brain's pleasure center. When you have sex, your brain is flooded with an excess of dopamine. As your mood improves, your stress level decreases. Additionally, sexual activity is known to promote healthy brain cell growth and encourage happier moods.

There is also evidence to suggest that sex before a match could have physical benefits along with psychological ones. According to scientists, a female orgasm could cease the release of one specific pain transmitter for up to 24 hours, easing or eliminating muscle pain or soreness.

This is not to say that sex is a miracle performance enhancer for all athletes. Hope Solo, goalkeeper of the U.S. women's soccer team that won gold in 2008 and 2012, admitted that sex can be a distraction "if you don't have discipline."

In the end, it all depends on how the athlete approaches the subject. If safe, well-timed sex proves beneficial, then there is no reason to abstain. If not, then no worries; the athlete is not doomed to fail.

"With a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Solo said, "You want to build memories, whether it's sexual, partying, or on the field."

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Christine Salek

Christine is a writer and perpetual student living in Des Moines, Iowa. Her writing can also be found on Medium, the Gonzaga Bulletin, and ResearchGate.

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