Photo Credit: University of Utah, 2002

This new volume published by the International Olympic Committee concludes with a chapter I have written titled 'Bioethical Concerns in a Culture of Human Enhancement'. There are some publications that have special meaning and this is one of them. The book is the IOC's XVII volume of their highly prestigious 'Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine'. This volume may be regarded as the definitive book on the use of genetic technology in sports and my chapter is one of four that focus on social and ethical issues.

Given my views on doping, it feels like a privilege to be published here and reason for optimism that the world is a more open place than one may otherwise assume. The editors are Claude Bouchard and Eric P. Hoffman, the latter of whom I met in relation to a Hastings Centre and WADA project back in 2005.

Here's an excerpt from the Conclusion:

"The ethics of performance enhancement in sport are operationalized through WADA as a principle of “strict liability”, which deems that any positive anti-doping test means immediate suspension pending an inquiry. Yet, there are many biotechnological modifications that the sports world does not address, such as functional elective surgery. To this extent, questions remain about how genetic and molecular modifications or knowledge should be treated in the long term. Arguably, as humanity’s continued pursuit of health progresses, it will become apparent that the use of such science implies seeking to alter those biological processes that are a part of the aging process, and our intervention ultimately will ensure a collapse of the distinction between therapy and enhancement. If societies accept such continued pursuit, then the attempts to maintain sport as an environment free from enhancement will not simply be impractical or undesirable, they would also contravene fundamental human rights.

To this end, as the sports world races ahead to criminalize doping practices and treat the widespread use of performance enhancement as a broad public health issue, it will need to consider the interface between the local, national and international policy debates. Arguably, the political history of sport in the post-war period ensured that genetic science would be treated as a questionable technology for sports, where gene doping would become an integral part of the war on drugs. Yet, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (2005) noted, young people are not using steroids just for competitive sport. Rather, there is a broad culture of enhancement that underpins the use of technology. In time, genetic modification may become a part of this culture, though its integration within society will emerge first through applications that are medically justified and sports have yet to resolve how they will address the genetically modified athlete that society deems to be medically permissible." (pp. 390-391)

Miah, A. (2011) Bioethical Concerns in a Culture of Human Enhancement In Bouchard, C. & Hoffman, E. Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine, Genetic and Molecular Aspects of Sport Performance. Lausanne, International Olympic Committee, pp. 383-392.