Sex and sport, a winning duo?
The issue of sex at the Olympic Games and its effect on athlete performance is raised every four years. Even before the trials began in Tokyo, a rumor about the supposedly “anti-sex” beds ignited social media.
As soon as the first athletes arrived at the Olympic Village in Tokyo at the start of the week, the dormitory beds were suspected of being “anti-sex” because they were too fragile. The American long-distance runner Paul Chemilo, implied that they were unable to support more than one person to “avoid intimacy between the athletes”. His tweet, which went instantly viral, was quickly denied by Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan, who filmed himself jumping on it.
“Anti-sex” beds at the Olympics pic.twitter.com/2jnFm6mKcB
— Rhys Mcclenaghan (@McClenaghanRhys) July 18, 2021
There is therefore no risk that these beds will collapse at night, whether you are alone or accompanied. But the tweet of the American athlete has rekindled the conversation around sex at the Olympics and in sport in general. Are the Olympic Games really the scene of an international debauchery, as American shooter Josh Lakatos told it ? And what are the effects of sex on athlete performance? We take stock.
“A good way to release the pressure”
Every four years, the same rumors surface. These world competitions would be international meetings of dating and sex. In 2012, Hope Solo, the former goalkeeper of the American football team, declared: “I saw people making love in the open air, on lawns, between buildings. […] sex is an integral part of the Olympics. ”
“During the closing evenings, it’s party time, that’s for sure,” laughs Marine Mélia Agbojan, the coordinating doctor of the French Athletics Federation. “The athletes are young people, they have a draconian and exemplary lifestyle all year round, so at the end of the events they celebrate like any young person who celebrates the end of the exams. For them it’s a good way to release the pressure, ”she smiles.
But what about the benefits or harms of sex for athletes? In this world where surpassing oneself and efforts compete with each other, “it is a big taboo subject, there are lots of received ideas, and we do not necessarily address it in the medical field with athletes or their coaches” , recognizes Marine Mélia Agbojan.
Demystifying the role of abstinence
“Since Plato, it has been said that abstinence must be encouraged and some athletes evoke their success thanks to abstinence”, details the sports doctor. Mohammed Ali, boxing legend and fervent disciple of the Greek philosopher, claimed that he did not have sex six to eight weeks before a fight, to improve his performance. “But at the physiological level, sexual effort is very moderate in intensity,” she puts into perspective. We barely spend between 30 and 100 calories, for a sexual effort of six to ten minutes, which is equivalent to climbing two floors of stairs, so about twenty steps ”, underlines the coordinating doctor of the French athletics team. .
Making love to two or more is therefore very energy efficient. Good news for Olympic athletes! In addition, Marine Mélia Agbojan emphasizes the very beneficial effects of pleasure hormones released during a sexual act. “Serotonin and endorphin are relaxing and promote good sleep and help reduce anxiety”, which, before a competition, can be very beneficial.
Sex may have other positive effects on athletic performance. “Endorphins also reduce pain because they act on the same receptors as morphine,” explains the doctor, “so they can reduce muscle stiffness for 24 hours after exercise. ”
160,000 condoms for 11,000 athletes
450,000. This is the record number of condoms distributed at the Rio Olympics in 2016. This year, the Japanese organizers were less generous than their Brazilian counterparts, with “only” 160,000 condoms for 11,000 athletes, according to the report. Tokyo-Sports newspaper. Which gives an average of 14 per person per day. “The condoms left to the athletes are more for the purposes of public health prevention and the fight against sexually transmitted infections,” explains Marine Mélia Agbojan.
“Sexual infections decrease sports performance and lead to muscle injuries, joint pain, tendonitis,” warns the doctor of French athletes. This is why since the summer games in Seoul which were held in 1988, the tradition wants that free condoms are available to athletes stressed and breathless after the test. The recycled cardboard beds of the Tokyo Olympic Village will therefore perhaps be the scene of fiery hugs again this year.