Katrin Gerlinger, Thomas Petermann, Arnold Sauter
The Committee’ s Preface
The promotion of recreational, competitive, and elite sport is an important social and political responsibility. Widespread abuse of performance-enhancing substances with intent to deceive, i.e. doping, seriously compromises comparisons of athletic performance and threatens competition by jeopardizing both equality of opportunity and the health of doping athletes. In addition, doping undermines the basic principles of fairness and playing by the rules – important elements that contribute to the social context of sport. For some time now, based on a growing body of knowledge from the field of human genome research, fears have been expressed that this threat will be further aggravated by novel methods of manipulation at the genetic level, an approach known as gene doping.
The potential explosiveness of the issue means that the legislature must address this problem at an early stage. In view of the paucity of currently available information, the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment, at the suggestion of the Sports Committee, commissioned the Office for Technology Assessment of the German Bundestag (TAB) to carry out an investigation into gene doping. This report concludes that project.
The aim was to analyze the scientific and sociopolitical dimensions of gene doping by reviewing the status of doping-relevant findings from genome research with special attention to individual and social risks. This was accomplished by exploring detection and control possibilities, including the resulting need to refine relevant statutory instruments, and by discussing possible preventive strategies in the fields of information dissemination, education, and public debate.
This report provides what is probably the most comprehensive examination to date of foreseeable developments in the field of gene doping and its potential impact. It reveals that a broad range of new medical and pharmaceutical techniques and procedures – most still under development – could be misused to illegally enhance athletic performance. Possible points of entry include elite sport, the highly competitive bodybuilding scene, and in the long term anti-aging medicine as part of a general social trend towards manipulating performance in everyday life.
Besides the unpredictable risks to the health of users, this TAB report reveals the growing challenge of detecting potential gene doping methods and highlights the need for a comprehensive refinement of control and analysis methods. Other areas requiring action are the adaptation of statutory instruments and the development of educational measures targeted at specific groups.
This report provides the German Bundestag with valuable up-to-date information as a basis for parliamentary discussion of gene doping – a topic that is of relevance to sports, research, and social policymaking alike.
Berlin, April 30, 2008
The Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment