Drugs in Sport: cheats could inject genes to beat system


Drugs in Sport: cheats could inject genes to beat system(2001, Dec 3) The Daily Telegraph, by S. Wallace [link]

One of the controversial (and perhaps superficial) claims in this paper is how the completion of the Human Genome Project will yield information that will make it even more possible to create genetically enhanced athletes. This is quite unclear though it is intriguing that a link has been made - as if the Human Genome Project is related to identifying performance genes or anything that could tell us about performance genes. Of course, the implication is that the knowledge will lead to other possibilities, even if the completion itself says nothing about performance genes. Yet, there is quite a gap between these two things and the Telegraph could be criticised for linking two quite different projects. Arguably, one of the concerns about this is that it monstrises the HGP, as if it is reflective of technology going out of control.

Dick Pound notes that the era of genetically modified athletes willl make examples of doping such as Ben Johnson seem lik an 'ancient rock painting'. There is something misleading in this analogy. Both genetic modification and steroids are example of unknown technologies, which have been disruptive because the surprise they have created. In this sense, they are similar. Of course, Pound does say that we will look back on Johnson and feel this in a hundred years. Of course, most things will look primitive in one hundred years, so I am not sure this tells us very much about the uniqueness of gene doping or, indeed, the primitiveness of steroids.