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The Warrior-Slave Theory of Jamaican Sprinting

Welcome home again!” the black scientist says to the white scientist, a Cheshire cat smile curling around his face.

The black scientist is Errol Morrison, the most renowned medical researcher in Jamaica. “Morrison Syndrome” is a form of diabetes that he linked to indigenous bush teas that some Jamaicans consume in copious quantities. Morrison is so esteemed on the island that once when he was receiving an award for his work, the doctor introducing him joked to the audience that when she traveled abroad people who learned she was from Jamaica would greet her with “Bob Marley!”—unless it was a diabetes conference, in which case they say, “Errol Morrison!”

Morrison is also the president of the twelve-thousand-student University of Technology in Kingston, known locally as UTech. And right now, in late March 2011, he’s joking with the white scientist, Yana’s Pitsiladis, a biologist and obesity expert from the University of Glasgow who visits the island regularly and was recently made an adjunct distinguished professor in Utah’s nascent sports science program.

Now the men’s right hands are clasped, and each has his left around the other man’s back. There is a glistening affection between them. They will relax over dinner tonight in Morrison’s airy home, high on a hill, with the Kingston lights just pinpricks below.

In his memo pad for work-related expenses, Pitsiladis has a budget line for paying a witch doctor in Jamaica in his quest to get approval to collect DNA from the man’s community. Needless to say, there are few researchers like him in the world.

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