Favourable genetic endowment has been proposed as part of the explanation for the success of East African endurance athletes, but no evidence has yet been presented. The Y chromosome haplogroup distribution of elite Ethiopian athletes (n=62) was compared with that of the general Ethiopian population (n=95) and a control group from Arsi (a region producing a disproportionate number of athletes; n=85). Athletes belonged to three groups: marathon runners (M; n=23), 5-km to 10-km runners (5-10K; n=21) and other track and field athletes (TF; n=18). DNA was extracted from buccal swabs and haplogroups were assigned after the typing of binary markers in multiplexed minisequencing reactions. Frequency differences between groups were assessed by using contingency exact tests and showed that Y chromosome haplogroups are not distributed amongst elite Ethiopian endurance runners in the same proportions as in the general population, with statistically significant (P<0.05) differences being found in four of the individual haplogroups. The geographical origins and languages of the athletes and controls suggest that these differences are less likely to be a reflection of population structure and that Y chromosome haplogroups may play a significant role in determining Ethiopian endurance running success.