Testing almost ready to catch gene doping

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is close to unveiling tests that will detect «gene doping,» a leading scientist said at a four-day IOC Medical Congress in Athens yesterday. The move follows mounting concern that gene therapy, used to treat chronic medical conditions such as muscular dystrophy, is being misused by unscrupulous athletes and coaches. Professor Geoff Goldspink, from University College London, speaking on the sidelines of the congress, said testing technology was «almost there.» «We can already detect illicit DNA and introduced gene products,» said Goldspink, who has been compiling a report due to be handed to WADA in a fortnight. Congress delegates warned that gene doping presents a «clear and present danger» and that international sports authorities are facing the next generation of sports cheats. «We can put genes into mice and create Arnold Schwarzenegger mice. If it can be done on mice, it can be done on humans,» said Goldspink. He said laboratory mice had shown that gene transfer could lead to a 25 percent leap in muscle mass inside two weeks. «It’s inevitable that we will have this [kind of doping] if we don’t already have it. Once the technology exists for medical use, disreputable people will be putting the stuff in athletes,» he warned. Current testing methods aimed at catching athletes using banned substances such as anabolic steroids or amphetamines are powerless to catch gene cheats, scientists said. Meanwhile, the IOC yesterday said yesterday that it wants USA Track & Field to provide answers on a doping case regarding Olympic gold medalist Jerome Young within 10 days. IOC investigator Denis Oswald said yesterday he will consider USATF is refusing to cooperate unless it replies within that time frame. Oswald is part of a two-man IOC commission investigating why Young was allowed to compete in the 2000 Sydney Olympics despite a positive steroid test a year earlier. The case could result in the United States losing its 1,600-meter gold medal. The sport’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, sent a letter to USATF officials on October 2, asking them to turn over documents on the case. (Reuters, AP)

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