The phantom "gene doping" has emerged in the context of far-reaching goals and visions in the field of human genome research. Applications in gene diagnostics and -therapy have been projected onto the sports world, in which there exists a long and unbroken tradition of doping. Because of this tradition it seems plausible that there is – in an illegal and treacherous surround – a particular willingness to apply highly risky and medically barely examined means and practices to specifically increase the performance in sports, despite it being interdicted and on pain of far-reaching penalties, also via manipulation of gene activity. Being a novel quality of doping, gene doping could not only undermine the control- and sanction-system in sports, but also the principles of fairness and equal opportunities. Against this background and on initiative of the Sport Committee of the German Bundestag, TAB has addressed the issue if, how and where the phantom gene doping could take shape.
The TAB report "gene doping" assents to the broad definition of gene doping issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency. From the perspective of possible abuse for performance enhancement in sport, a detailed overview is provided on the one hand of the state of biological-medical research of gene- and cell-therapeutic methods but also of techniques for a targeted manipulation of gene expression by highly specific drugs. The report aims to respond to following key questions: From which scientific insights could gene doping draw and to what extent are risks assessable? Where will be the gateways into professional and popular sports, which challenges have to be met by doping analytics and how can be reacted against possible gene doping with the aid of prohibition- and controlstructures? In addition to these thematic points of view, gene doping is also put in perspective to societal trends and patterns. It is being asked which patterns and dispositions of behaviour play a role on the level of athletes, and how gene doping as deviant individual behaviour on the societal level is influenced by different contexts and actors. Building on this broad analysis approach, that integrates for the first time different research perspectives, options for action that are available already today are derived in order to avert gene doping, at the least to delay and confine its diffusion.
Katrin Gerlinger, Thomas Petermann, Arnold Sauter
Berlin: Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag (TAB) 2008, (TAB-Working Report No. 124)