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GENETIC DOPING AND THE OLYMPICS

Genetic Crossroads
September 23rd, 2004

A vigorous debate about the prospect of genetically engineered super-athletes accompanied this summer's Olympic games and the report in March of a genetic modification experiment that produced "Schwarzenegger mice" with a 50% increase in muscle growth.

The scientist who engineered the super-mice has "been inundated with requests for information from coaches and athletes," according to The Christian Science Monitor. Though there are no indications that any such experiments have been used on Olympic athletes to date, the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] has already declared "gene doping" illegal.

But gene doping has increasingly vocal advocates. Andy Miah, author of Genetically Modified Athletes: Biomedical Ethics, Gene Doping and Sport, argues that genetic modification is safer for athletes than are drugs, that it would be "consistent with the values of elite sport," and that "genetic enhancement could make us more robust, more capable and better humans." In any case, he says, echoing the mantra of other advocates of market eugenics, it is "inevitable and impossible to avoid."

Many sports commentators support WADA's prohibition of gene doping. University of Texas professor John Hoberman, who has studied the history of sports doping, for example, says that legalizing genetic modification would "turn [sports] into a kind of circus-a freak show."

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