The 2016 Olympic games are happening in Brasil. The finest athletes from around the world are gathered to compete for a chance to make history. They've been training hard for years (or a lifetime) for this shot at glory. This event will prove who is the best in the world. Right?
American statistician W. Edwards Deming was well known for his assertion that 90% variation is naturally occurring within the system.
Think about doing some task - walking up the stairs, making your bed, anything. As hard as you try, you won't be able to do it in the exact same time every attempt.
I'm not talking about the occasional stumble or a random sneeze that throws you off. I mean that with all other things being equal, there will still be some variation you can't get rid of.
An Olympic caliber athlete will be able to improve there ability. With training and practice, they can reduce that variation. But in a close race, the common variation could drastically alter the medal standings. To me, 0.003 seconds would qualify as variation that would be out of anyone's control.
So the question remains - Is it fair to award medals where the difference between many of the participants are within the natural variation of the system? What do you think?
Bonus: Does the Best Team Always Win?