Testers fear reality of genetically modified Olympians
By Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) - There have been "marathon mice", "Schwarzenegger mice" and dogs whose wasted muscles were repaired with injected substances that switch off key genes. It may not be long before we get the first genetically modified athlete.
Some fear the use of gene therapy to improve athleticism is already a reality. But since sports authorities' drug testing methods still lack the sophistication needed to pick up gene doping, its status remains unclear.
What is certain, from scientific studies and from surveys of elite sports people, is that it is technically feasible to use genetic modification to improve sporting performance, and that some athletes are prepared to risk their lives if they could be guaranteed to win gold medals.
Officially, UK Anti-Doping, the body which oversees the control of performance enhancing drugs in Britain, says genetic manipulation as a form of performance enhancement "is currently a theoretical rather than a proven issue".
But Andy Parkinson, UKAD's chief executive said: "I wouldn't be surprised if someone out there is trying to do it, and I think that's very worrying."
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) says it is ploughing "significant" money and resources into research into finding ways to detect genetic enhancement of athletes.
NEW GENETIC MAKE-UP
Gene doping - in which DNA is introduced into the body using an inactivated virus or by other means - could alter a person's genetic make-up and improve athletic performance by increasing muscle growth, blood production, endurance, oxygen dispersal or pain perception. Continued...