Sex and athletic performance — good
By David Lee
Dave Picard /Gazette
ABOUT THE SCRUM, THINK ABOUT THE SCRUM. Women’s
rugby players always come in close contact; they just have
to keep their minds on the game.
To shag or not to shag? For many athletes shortly before game
time, that is the question.
The link between performing sexual acts and subsequent performance
in athletic competitions has been hotly debated for years. For
many non-athletes, there exists a widespread belief that nearly
all athletes abstain from sex immediately before an event in order
to save their energy and increase their chances of success. But
are the rumours true? Would athletes really pass up sex in order
to best the competition?
On the surface, the reasons behind the rumour seems sensible.
As athletics have become more competitive, athletes look for any
edge they can get, whether it be in diet, training or elsewhere.
Abstaining from sex would apparently conserve an athlete’s
energy for a contest. However, if one digs a little deeper, it
becomes clear the myth behind pre-game abstinent athletes is just
that — a myth.
Earl Noble, a professor in the faculty of health sciences, says
he believes there is no link between sex and decreased athletic
“Findings show that sexual activity [has] no detrimental
influence on the maximal workload achieved or on the athlete’s
mental concentration,” he says. Noble explains that research
experiments emulated sexual intercourse by placing subjects on
a treadmill or exercise bike and raising their heart rates to a “maximal
workload” that would be the equivalent to sex.
“SOMETIMES, I JUST WANT TO BE HELD AND TOLD EVERYTHING
WILL BE ALRIGHT.” Jamie Gillman and one of his wrestling
teammates get up close and personal to discuss life, love
and The Wedding Singer.
While Noble notes that research is far from conclusive, he says
it points in the right direction. “Personally, I believe
that anytime you start disrupting normal behaviour, you’re
going to start having negative effects in whatever you do, be it
academics or athletics. Whatever you’re accustomed to is
what you should do.”
A similarly held belief is that hard-nosed coaches are the ones
instituting “no sex” rules. This, however, is also
Bob Vigars, head coach of Western’s cross-country team,
has his own view of how sex can affect an athlete’s performance: “I’ve
said for years that for guys, it’s not sex before the competition
that’s the problem,” he laughs. “It’s staying
up the night before trying to get it.”
Though he takes a humourous stance on the issue, Vigars also has
a rational grounding for his belief. “I haven’t seen
any scientific evidence that says if affects you one way or the
other,” he adds. “I think it’s a very personal
While the debate goes on, it appears the focus of the discourse
has been solely to male athletes. “It’s really a guy
thing,” Vigars notes. “We’re testosterone-laden
things. That’s not to say that women aren’t interested — after
all, it takes two to tango.”
In the end, it seems the decision of whether or not to have sex
the night before a competition is as individual as the athletes
“Before track — no,” says Christian Heffernan,
a member of Western’s track and field team.
“But before football — definitely,” comments teammate
Randy McAuley. Heffernan and McAuley are two-sport stars at Western;
both are on the football and track and field teams.
With available evidence suggests there is no definitive link between
pre-game intercourse and athletic performance, athletes are left
to feel things out for themselves, as it were. Through trial and
error most athletes eventually decide which preparatory routine
helps them the most in their pursuit of victory.
—with files from James Hayes