Gene testing and the olympics

TURIN, Italy - Drug testing at the XX Winter Olympic Games will be more sophisticated, more refined, and more prevalent than it was four years ago in Salt Lake City, says TIM PANACCIO of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  He adds the following, and quotes Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA):

Among WADA's biggest challenges is testing for genetic doping. Blood samples taken at these Games will be stored for as long as four years, officials said, in hopes that the science of genetic testing will evolve on a parallel level of those using genetics for performance enhancement.

"The experts we have tell us they don't think it (genetic doping) is going to apply here," Pound said. "Even the information coming out of the trials tell us it's more inquiries than (identifying) a genetic doping agent.

"In future Games, we have to operate on the assumption there will be people out there willing to do it." Andrew Pipe, who heads the Independent Observer team at the Turin Games, said that the next phase of grand-scale testing in the future will be "retro testing" of old samples versus new samples on a genetic basis. "The state of the art approaches to detection of standards will be applied to this setting," he said, adding that he feels the procedures used now are already on the leading edge of technology.

According to the New York Academy of Sciences and the University of San Diego, which conduct programs in gene therapy, the idea behind genetic doping is to build skeletal muscle and increase production of red blood cells.

Such doping is seen as a performance enhancer under WADA's guidelines.

Whether or not gene doping is a reality, it's being looked for in Turin. Geneforum has been interested in gene doping for some time. Take part in the process by completing the gene doping survey.

Marie Godfrey, PhD

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