gene doping

Genetic doping, the next revolution in sports cheating

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The fight against doping in sports competitions has become a truly global sport. Not a Tour de France, a vintage of the Olympic Games, a world championship, without mentioning doping. The hunt for cheating athletes often makes the headlines, but what about all those who slip through the net? In the not too distant future, the fight against doping could be even more difficult, if not impossible, when genetic doping becomes widespread.
 
Ot is often mentioned in the columns of UP' Magazine. Scientists are multiplying the uses of their new knowledge in rewriting our genetic code and modifying it. Genetic editing biotechnologies, at the forefront of which is the now famous CRISPR-Cas9 , are making considerable progress. Today, change the gene of a plant has become commonplace. But did we know that with the same tools we could modify an athlete's gene to make him more competitive?
 

EPO gene

For example, a scientist could use a virus to insert a gene that encourages the body to produce the protein erythropoietin (EPO). EPO helps provide oxygen to the tissues, which is why some cheating athletes have been injecting it for years to improve their performance. Detecting this injected substance is relatively simple, and doping controls have learned to detect it perfectly. But what will happen when an excess of EPO produced by the body itself is detected? Much more difficult to do. Although it is possible.
 
Olivier Rabin, Senior Executive Director of Science and International Partnerships at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a told CNN that officials should look for additional copies of the gene in an athlete's blood or other biological sample. Easy to say but difficult to do. For this test to work, test operators would have to know what the athlete's genetic code looked like before it was transformed. After all, who can say that the athlete was not born with this genetic conformation?
 
We're talking about genetic manipulation, adding a gene to an athlete. But it gets even more complicated when it comes to gene editing. Unlike genetic modification, which involves adding genes, gene editing simply focuses on cutting and pasting the genes that an organism already has. A genetically modified athlete would not have any genes added and the transformation would be undetectable by testing officials. Unseen and unknown, I'm collecting medals...
 
 

Impossible control?

To get a head start, WADA is considering asking all Olympic athletes to submit copies of their complete genetic code. This approach opens up dark territory in terms of privacy protection, and the issue becomes even more sensitive when one considers that some Olympic athletes are minors. Moreover, how can we identify a young athlete who is not yet recognised in competitions, who will have modified his genetic code; his original code sample will already have been transformed, long before he dreams of entering the big competition and any kind of control is applied to him.
 
Anti-doping experts feel disarmed and see only one way out: to educate athletes as early as possible about the ethical issues and health risks associated with genetic doping. There is a fear that this is a lost cause: the recent history of the fight against EPO has shown us that athletes are willing to take any risk to gain an advantage in the competition.
 
 
Sources: Futurism, CNN
 

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