Authors envision gene doping in sports


With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games under way, officials in the anti-doping community are urging researchers and those in the athletic community to redouble their efforts to fight illegal doping.

Theodore Friedmann, M.D., professor of pediatrics and director of the Gene Therapy Program at UCSD School of Medicine, and several others wrote an article, “Gene Doping and Sports,” in the February issue of the journal Science of the emergence in the media of a community that approves and even encourages the use of “virtually any enhancing agents that science makes available to them.” The authors called on scientists to not be mere bystanders but to “reaffirm their responsibilities to conduct and report their work” ethically.

Co-authors include Olivier Rabin, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Montreal; and Mark S. Frankel, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Friedmann is chairman of WADA’s Gene Doping Expert Group.

“Genetic manipulation will be the frontier for human genetic enhancement,” Friedmann said. “Successful development of gene therapy has provided the concepts, tools, opportunity and, for some, justification for genetic modification of functions that affect normal human traits, such as athletic performance.”

The best of the best in sports gather at the Olympics, one of the world’s most competitive events. Friedmann said the time is right to look at how advances in genetics are affecting sports in ways not expected just a decade ago.