Olympics Could Require Athletes’ Genetic Code to Test For Doping
Genetic sequencing would be an extension of an idea sports authorities developed in 2008, called the biological passport. It serves as a way of monitoring various indicators of an athlete’s blood, hormones, and body chemistry over time—looking for changes that could indicate cheating, even though the athlete may not have triggered a positive drug test. The passport looks for physiological changes caused by doping. And it has an eight-year statute of limitations so they can re-test older blood or urine samples when new tests or analytical methods are developed. WADA authorities have already used the passport to catch athletes who use trace amounts of drugs that are below the testing threshold. But without a baseline read of an athlete’s genes, it would be harder to identify doping cases that modify the body’s blueprint itself. WADA has already banned gene doping—the practice of manipulating the genetic code to boost athletic performance—in anticipation of new forms of cheating, though no athletes have been charged so far. In 2006, a German track coach was suspected of using an anemia drug called Repoxygen to help turn on genes that control the production of blood oxygen levels. While he didn’t get busted for that offense, he was later convicted of giving performance-enhancing drugs to teen athletes.
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