What Are The New Threats Of Genetic Research

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Special Article

New threats of genetic research in sport
1Szczecin University, Institute of Physical Culture, Poland 2Szczecin University, Genetics Faculty, Poland

ABSTRACT Cieszczyk P, Maciejewska A, Sawczuk M. New threats of genetic research in sport. J. Hum. Sport Exerc. Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 322-327, 2010. The main goal of this paper is to show the main threats and ethical controversies associated with the application of molecular biology in sport. Such ethical reservations are presently the most important obstacle to wider application of genetics in training and only a small fraction of its remarkable potential is used in sport practice. However, the increasing availability of molecular research and associated possibilities create a situation where the moral questions need to be comprehensively addressed. Key words: SPORT, GENETICS, ETHICS, GENE DOPING.


Corresponding author. Institute of Physical Culture, ul. Piastow 40b, blok 6, 70-067 Szczecin, Poland. Phone: +48914442735, Fax: +48914442736 E-mail: cieszczyk@poczta.onet.pl Submitted for publication April 2010. Accepted for publication September 2010. JOURNAL OF HUMAN SPORT & EXERCISE ISSN 1988-5202 © Faculty of Education. University of Alicante doi:10.4100/jhse.2010.53.02

VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 3 | 2010 | 322

Cieszczyk et al. / Genetic research in sport


Until recently, all types of scientific research in sport have been able to be included within generally accepted ethical frames (Loland, 2002), but with the application of new technologies, including achievements in molecular biology, this has changed. The practical possibility of using human DNA information in sport has started to emerge gradually, in line with the development of molecular techniques (Bouchard et al., 1997). Despite the enormous potential of such methods, their legal application in sport has been very small, mainly due to ethical considerations (Chrostowski, 2005), where the questions of moral nature are as complicated as the already intricate subject matter of genetics. It is symptomatic that from the very inception of the Human Genome Project, it has been accompanied by a special advisory body, the ELSI (Ethical, Legal and Social Implications), to tackle the potential consequences of nascent studies on the human genome. Since the very beginning, ELSI had a considerable budget of 3-5% of all the resources spent on the Project. Its main areas of interest were the intellectual property of genetic information, application of genetic information for non-medical purposes, significance of the human genotype information for racial and ethnic issues, and the ethical aspects of using genetic research by other scientific disciplines. In sport, the issue that has unanimously been regarded as unethical and morally reprehensible is the use of gene therapy in doping (Breivik, 2005). The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided to include a prohibition on gene doping within their World Anti-Doping Code as early as 2003 (WADA, 2005). However, gene doping seems to be a more complicated moral issue than previously known methods of illegal doping. The main question here is the incomparably greater risk to the health and life of the competitors, and hence the immense responsibility of physicians and coaches who decide to use it. In contrast to previous doping methods, the present level of knowledge does not give a 100% certainty on a specific response of a body to the applied gene doping. Additionally, no effective methods have been developed to control changes initiated by the introduction of genes into the human body (Schjerling, 2005). The associated response of the body cannot be halted by anyone and anything, and additionally, the minimization of these effects is also impossible. If during a gene doping process something goes contrary to the assumptions, the doctor could only helplessly witness the