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A couple of weeks ago, an editor at the Evening Standard asked me to write a letter in relation to the Standard's campaign to have Linford Christie removed from the Olympic torch relay nominations. I think he expected a letter in support of their campaign. He didn't get it. Here's what they didn't publish. I didn't hear back from him after sending it:
Dear Josh, I submit the following. It probably isn't what you expected or, perhaps, wanted....
The campaign to remove Linford Christie from the Olympic torch relay for Beijing in London later this year highlights one of the longstanding inconsistencies within the Olympic Movement. As an aspiring judicial system - with its own Court to boot - it fails miserably as a mechanism of rehabilitation, since no amount of recompense an athlete makes after a doping infraction is enough to allow them entry back into the social world of athletics. While it might appear to be bad PR to bring Linford into the ceremony, this fact invites further questions over why such a decision was taken. In part, the answer lies in recent years when Linford became a mentor for the British Olympic team. At the same time, he was also a witness for a pioneering British inquiry into developing more robust policies to address doping in sport, especially taking into account claims from athletes, like him, who say that they have ingested banned substances by poorly labeled nutritional supplements. When we see Linford with the torch in April, we should not look upon him as a villain who has been celebrated despite his infractions - not as a bad guy who finished first - but as a symbol of rehabilitation, someone from whom greater achievements are possible by learning the hard way. Much better for London to do this than to utilize a clean athlete who has yet to be found guilty of doping. At least with Linford, we all know where we stand. There can be no subsequent betrayal, which could occur if any, supposedly, clean athlete is asked to perform such duties. London should be different and it is right that the IOC does not intervene on these matters. While it might appear to be consistent with the moral outrage that surrounds doping in sport to request Linford's absence, it is thoroughly inconsistent with the aspirations of achieving justice, which are the deeper values at stake when we appeal to fair play as a guiding norm within competitive performance cultures like sport. So, I say let him carry the torch. His permanent exclusion from the BOA as an athlete is mandatory under its policy, not a definitive statement on his present character. Perhaps his presence will encourage a deeper level of debate about what doping means, why it matters and how we should deal with it. However, any such inquiry is lost if we limit our conversations to the simplistic signifier of Linford Christie as doped athlete.
Dr Andy Miah, Author of 'Genetically Modified Athletes' Reader, University of the West of Scotland.
After having met Jim McVeigh and Michael Evans-Brown in Aarhus a month or so back, I'm now substituting for Julian Savulescu at their meet on Friday. looks like an interesting conference.... http://pied-conference.net/
Article written by Robin McKie. I spoke with Robin at Glasgow Central station last december in preparation for this article. I think it's timing is good, as the Select Committee on Science and Technology will soon report on the use of Human Enhancement Technologies in Sport. McKie, Robin. (2007) The Drugs do Work, The Observer, Sunday 4 February, 2007. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/story/0,,2002942,00.html
Last night (7th Aug), I took part in a debate with Anita Anand on Radio Five Live. Other contributors included Dick Pound (WADA), Kris Akabusi (Athlete), Mike Smith (Coach) and my good friend Jim Parry (Philosopher.
Miah, A. (2006). Is Sport Winning the War on Drugs? No. The Guardian. London: p.7. The press is in a bit of a frenzy this week over the doping issue. I arrived back in the UK to receive a bunch of calls from journalists wanting to interview. One of these was Duncan MacKay at The Guardian who asked me to write a response to the above question. The piece is published in today's Guardian alongside the counter position written by Dr John Scott at UK Sport.
In February this year, the Financial Times ran an article about genetic doping in sport, where Professor Julian Savulescu was interviewed on his views. The article's author, David Owen, begins by carefully intimating his fascination for the Ben Johnson race and Savulescu voices doubt about the value of the current approach to doping. Also, Don Catlin is quoted as saying that the real smart athletes are perfectly able to avoid the doping tests. The Stockholm meeting is also mentioned.
This is a month for articles on genetic testing for athletes. I received my newsletter 'Genome' from the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, the cover story of which is titled 'Of Jocks and Genes'. Part of the article is about ACTN3, but the first part is about hypertrophic cardiomypoathy (HCM). It indicates that 'the Chichago Bulls asked 6'11'' center Eddy Currey to take a DNA test to determine if he was predisposed to' HCM. He refused. The Bulls 'benched him pending a DNA test'. It's an interesting case, particularly since a Duke physician has been following it. Concerns about privacy aplenty. Also this month, the Science Creative Quarterly has a piece titled 'Genes for Speed' by Jed Shimizu.
To conclude, Em and I have just - literally tonight - finished the final edits on a piece we have written for Sport, Education and Society about genetic testing for ability. The paper is due out this year under the following details:
Miah, A. and Rich, E. (2006) Genetic Tests for Ability? Talent Identification and the Value of an Open Future, Sport, Education and Society, in press.
Here's the pre-proof abstract.
This paper explores the prospect of genetic tests for performance in physical activity and sports practices. It investigates the terminology associated with genetics, testing, selection and ability as a means towards a socio-ethical analysis of its value within sport, education and society. Our argument suggests that genetic tests need not even be used (or widely used) as a tool for talent identification to have an impact on the way in which abilities are recognised and celebrated within sport. Just the development of these tests may consolidate discourses associated with performance and techno-scientific views of the bodies which are drawn upon in selecting, labelling and position some, rather than others, as ‘able’. The attachment of sports institutions to these technologies which may be helping to shape a theoretical and wider social construction of how performance is viewed. Our paper problematises the place that such testing may assume in the culture of physical activity and potentially physical education. In doing so, we explore how the development of these tests may impact educational practices related to sport in two keys ways. Firstly, the direct impact in terms of the ways in which the ways in which information from these tests may be used to influence the sports experience of young people, within both physical education and sports arenas. Secondly, we consider how, on a broader level, the increasing importance given to genetic science may be (re)constructing wider social understandings of the nature of ‘ability’ within sport and physical activity. Our response to these developments extends Feinberg’s thesis on an ‘open future’, which argues that selecting the characteristics of children would be unacceptable on account of it diminishing the openness of that child’s future – the range of prospects they might encounter that could lead to the flourishing of their life. On this view, we argue that genetic tests for performance might violate the child’s right to an open future and that this concern should be taken into account when considering how and whether such tests should be used.
At the end of this week, the Cyprus Conference takes place, which is supported by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It describes itself as: "the first ever meeting of professionals and researchers interested in anti-doping research in the social and behavioural sciences and its applications in anti-doping policy making and doping prevention programs."
and includes a number of notables such as Barrie Houlihan and Bartha Maria Knoppers, thus further connecting bioethics and sport.
The trouble with this issue is that, if one takes even a dominant approach to the doping issue (that there are good reasons to seek its removal from sport), then there is so much work that should be done to link medical ethics and sport ethics. Perhaps it is more worthwhile to struggle for progress in that domain, rather than to align oneself with the dismantling of both dimensions by arguing for enhancement. Equally, one cannot but be drawn to the advancements in transhumanism, which seem to be establishing greater credibility day by day.
I happen to think that I have a relatively moderate view about performance enhancement in sport. My initial position is that the doping dilemma is a genuine ethical issue - one which lends itself to no clear resolution, because there are essentially contested concepts at stake. To this extent, I sympathise with many people involved within the anti-doping movement. I listen to their views, I take on board what they say. To this extent, I also do not shout too loud about the value of a pro-doping stance, even though I am characterised predominantly as advocating this view. For one thing, the doping issue is deeply political and, if one aims to do good philosophy, then taking this into account is critical. Debates surrounding any technological, regulatory issue must engage with the practical ethical problems they present. However, at times, I wonder whether I should be more radical and unforgiving about the case to be made on behalf of doping.
Yet another 'pro-doping' op ed piece passed across my desk today and it has provoked me to consider whether there should be some form of organisation of these disparate views. Perhaps we need to get all the 'pro-doping' views/people together to bring about some form of structured intervention. However, if I do this, I worry that this might compromise my integity by clearly aligning myself with one particular kind of conclusion when, as I say, this issue is more complex.
So, my proposal is to establish a World Pro-Doping Agency as a thought experiment. I wonder how many people would sign up. My first task will be to assemble all papers, people and institutions that have raised questions about the anti-doping movement. However, the end goal is one that seeks to present constructive proposals to the difficult problem of doping in sport. (Watch out for publications of mine using this title.)
The 42nd Annual meeting of the ACSM takes place in Denver (Colorado) this year. It will be the first ACSM meeting I have attended and I have been invited to be part of a symposium on 'gene doping'. The other panellists include Stephen Roth (Chair, U. of Maryland), Ted Friedmann (WADA), Olivier Rabin (WADA), and Gary Wadler (NYU). It should be an exciting event.
The title of this entry is the same as that used in the new UK inquiry from the Science and Technology Select Committee in the UK Government. It's off to a good start already, avoiding the pejorative terminology of 'doping'. I am optimistic that it will broaden the debate and it's good to see it on the agenda. A representative from the Committee also attended the JMI meeting and our sport session yesterday. I reproduce their press release below:
No. 24 of Session 2005-06
1 March 2006
HUMAN ENHANCEMENT TECHNOLOGIES IN SPORT
The Science and Technology Committee is to conduct an inquiry into the use of human enhancement technologies (HETs) in sport, with particular reference to technologies which are likely to impact on the 2012 Olympics.
The Committee is examining the opportunities and problems presented by the increasing availability of technologies capable of enhancing sporting performance and is inviting written evidence on:
The potential for different HETs, including drugs, genetic modification and technological devices, to be used legally or otherwise for enhancing sporting performance, now and in the future;
Steps that could be taken to minimise the use of illegal HETs at the 2012 Olympics;
The case, both scientific and ethical, for allowing the use of different HETs in sport and the role of the public, Government and Parliament in influencing the regulatory framework for the use of HETs in sport; and
The state of the UK research and skills base underpinning the development of new HETs, and technologies to facilitate their detection.
The Committee would welcome written evidence from interested organisations and individuals addressing these points. Evidence should be submitted by Monday 22 May 2006. Oral evidence sessions will begin in June.
Guidelines for the submission of evidence
Evidence should be submitted in Word format, and should be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from.
Submissions should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document should include a brief executive summary. Those submitting evidence are reminded that evidence should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted no public use should be made of it, but those wishing to publish their evidence before it is published by the Committee are invited to contact the Clerk of the Committee to obtain permission to do so. Guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm
For further information please call Ana Ferreira, on 020 7219 2793. Previous press notices and publications are available on our website. www.parliament.uk/s&tcom
Notes to editors:
• Under the terms of Standing Order No. 152 the Science and Technology Committee is empowered to examine the “expenditure, policy and administration of the Office of Science and Technology and its associated public bodies”. The Committee was appointed on 19 July 2005.
Membership of the Committee
Mr Phil Willis (Lib Dem, Harrogate and Knaresborough)(Chairman) Adam Afriyie (Con, Windsor) Mr Robert Flello (Lab, Stoke-on-Trent South) Mr Jim Devine (Lab, Livingston) Dr Evan Harris (Lib Dem, Oxford West & Abingdon) Dr Brian Iddon (Lab, Bolton South East) Margaret Moran (Lab, Luton South) Mr Brooks Newmark (Con, Braintree) Anne Snelgrove (Lab/Co-op, South Swindon) Bob Spink (Con, Castle Point) Dr Desmond Turner (Lab, Brighton Kemptown)
Last week, a new gene doping story broke just as I was preparing my final grades for the end of semester and desperately trying to finalise details for the the research trip to the Torino Olympics. Repoxygen has been billled as the first case of genetic doping. Naturally, the media has gone crazy trying to understand what this means and sports officials already claim that a test is already under development. Interestingly, the claim about this new method of doping using 'repoxygen' was discovered through heresay:
"The springboard for these dire pronouncements was an email German police found on the computer belonging to former east German coach to Katrin Krabbe, Thomas Springstein, who is on trial at the moment for doping under-age female athletes. The message complained how "difficult it is to get hold of Repoxygen. Please give me new instructions so that I can get hold of the product for Christmas". Michael Butcher, Scotland on Sunday [who, by the way, didnt bother to call me for an opinion!]
I'm off to Turin tomorrow and already have interviews lined up on this subject. On the approach to Athens, scientists were claiming that Beijing might be our first Gene Games, but it seems Turin might have that famous title.
This week, the leading medical journal, The Lancet, Published a special supplement on sport and medicine. Its contents include a number of ethical commentaries including:
Essay: Prosthetics for athletes
Feature: Gene doping
Viewpoint: Legalisation of performance-enhancing drugs
Kayser B, Mauron A, Miah A
Essay: Transsexual athletes—when is competition fair?
Ljungqvist A, Genel M
After a fascinating series of presentations at the Stockholm meeting, we concluded proceednigs with a drafting of a declaration on gene doping. I think of particular interest was the stance taken on the use of genetic tests. This might raise a number of challenges for those who are already using them, though the declration does not forbid the use of such tests.
From 4-5 December, the World Anti-Doping Agency hosts its second Gene Doping symposium in Stockholm Sweden. They have already issues a press release for this meeting and, like the NYC meeting in 2002, the proceedings are closed to the media and by invitation only. At the meeting, I will give a reply to Dr Thomas H. Murray, President of The Hastings Center as part of a session on the ethics and policy implications of gene doping for sport.
One of the greatest catalysts for media coverage at the first meeting was Lee Sweeney's statement that he had been contacted by coaches and athletes who wish to enrol in gene therapy trials, in order to boost their performances. For the media and many other interested parties, this made the issue real and present.
It is likely that this meeting will present some advance on whether detection will be possible and I will argue for a re-definition of the ethics of sport based on a couple of recent pieces I have written. The first - published in the journal Public Understanding of Science - will advance a critique on the way in which gene doping has been discussed in society; the second - published in the European Journal of Sport Science - will argue that anti-doping policy should be replaced with a 'performance policy'.
Together, my conclusion will state that a rejection of gene transfer on the basis of current arguments implied and explicit within anti-doping policy is not justified. The two references are as follows:
Miah, A. (2005). "Genetics, cyberspace and bioethics: why not a public engagement with ethics?" Public Understanding of Science 14(4): 409-421.
Miah, A. (2005). "From anti-doping to a 'performance policy': sport technology, being human, and doing ethics." European Journal of Sport Science 5(1): 51-57.
In April this year, I published a brief commentary about the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on performance-enhancing drugs in sport. This commentary was extended and published in the Sept 10 issue of The Lancet. Full reference as follows: Miah, A. (2005, Sept 10). "Doping and the child: an ethical policy for the vulnerable." The Lancet 366: 874-876.
I just saw this press release for the UNESCO General Conference: 15-09-2005 12:00 pm UNESCO’s supreme decision-making body, the General Conference, which meets every two years, will hold its 33rd session from October 3 to 21 at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris. The session coincides with UNESCO’s 60th Anniversary celebrations and a special ceremony will take place on October 5.
Over 2,000 participants will attend the General Conference including a large number of ministers and several heads of state and of government. (A detailed calendar will be made available shortly.)
Three international standard-setting texts figure on the agenda of the General Conference: a Preliminary Draft of a Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions; a Draft International Convention against Doping in Sport; a Draft Declaration on Universal norms on Bioethics.
The General Conference will examine and adopt the Programme and Budget for 2006-2007 and prepare the Draft Programme and Budget for 2008-2009. The Conference will also name a Director-General for the next four years and renew half the membership of the Executive Board.
Many other subjects will also be examined, including an assessment and future prospects for the Education for All programme, as well as a strategy for establishing a global tsunami warning system.
In conjunction with the work of the General Conference, a round table on Education for All, aimed at education ministers will be held on October 7-8. A second round table on basic science will be organized for science ministers on the afternoon of October 5. A Youth Forum will take place before the start of the General Conference from September 30 to October 2.
I wonder if there is any connection between the bioethics declaration and the doping in sport convention. I suspect not, but would like to be wrong!
In March 2004, The British Medical Journal reported on the International Narcotics Control Board statement on the sale of drugs over the Internet. They highlight popular drugs such as sildenafil (viagra) and fluoxetine (Prozac) - who hasn't received email about these substances!? It is interesting that some of these drugs are associated with so-called 'lifestyle' enhancements. While the lack of regulation over online drugs is significant, I wonder how much of their concern is about how these drugs reflect a shift in the way people use and perceive medicine. One of the difficulties facing the medical profession is how to curb the tide on lifestyle medicine. There seem to be a number of legal and moral questions arising from the development of online pharmacies and, even if the current regulations offer a structure through which action could be taken against a dodgy company, we need to take into account how online pharmacies are different social spaces, compared with high-street retail outlets. For example, how does a physician take a history of their patient through the Internet? What relationship between the physician and patient is possible?
There also seem to be difficult boundary issues facing regulation. Even if the legal issues are similar to the importation of substances from one place to another, the manner in which people transcend these boundaries is radically different - it is much easier to click on a website of a company in a country far away, than it is to go there or connnect with a supplier in that country.