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Basketball player, Stephen Curry, shooting

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s fundamental purpose is preserving “the spirit of sport.” In its official Code, WADA describes that spirit as “the essence of Olympism, the pursuit of human excellence through the dedicated perfection of each person’s natural talents.”

Is there a plausible scenario by which a person’s athletic talents could be enhanced by somehow altering their genes through “gene doping” in a way that might count as “natural?”

One case study in understanding how genetics can shape our aptitude for sport is height. Basketball coaches say you can’t teach height. That’s certainly true, and being taller is a major advantage in that sport. Within a population, tall parents tend to have tall children and short parents tend to have short children.

But good nutrition and health also matter a great deal. The average height of 18-year-old South Korean women increased nearly eight inches between 1914 and 2014. Their genes didn’t change; their diets and overall health improved. Indeed, the average height of a population is a useful index of its overall health and diet.

Scientists have identified roughly 700...