GMO: Genetically Modified Atheletes    Absolute health

GMO: Genetically Modified Atheletes Absolute health

Eating, Exercising, Thinking, and Living Your Way To Better Health

By Health Coach ⋅ September 7, 2012 ⋅ Post a comment

Filed Under genetics, health, olympics, science fiction, sports

Since the inception of competitive sport, there have been athletes trying to boost their performance through less than ethical means. In the modern world, much of this performance boosting has been through drug means, including the use of steroids, human growth hormone, and blood-doping. Highly illegal, these are methods that can improve an athletic prowess, but are also easily tested for, similar to something like paternity testing. A more sinister new way to enhance performance has reared its ugly head, however, and it comes in the guise of genetic modification, a process that was, like most abused substances, initially created for good. As of right now, this type of genetic modification can’t be detected with any traditional methods of testing.

Gene modification generally involves putting a genetically modified DNA into a virus. The virus is then injected into the muscle, attaching itself to the human DNA cells already existing. The modified DNA cells will start producing whatever the initial intended result, be it activating muscle to extreme growth rates or pumping an astonishing amount of oxygen into the bloodstream. This will, in turn, make the athletic performance bettered to new heights, obliterating the non-doped competition. Gene therapy was originally created as treatment for different diseases, but the enhancing effects on muscle, hormones and blood have not gone unnoticed by the sports world.

Apart from athletic improvement, the effects of gene therapy are still widely unknown. The science behind it is too new to know any long term effects, and the athletes engaging in this sort of behavior have an unknown future to face. Since the only real way to test athletes for this kind of gene manipulation would be to biopsy every specific muscle, an invasive procedure that has still unknown accuracy at best, the world of athletics is a long way from knowing for sure whether an athlete is cheating in this risky behavior. According to Don Catlin, a U.S. medical doctor who helped create the country’s first drug testing lab (, “”One crude way to learn about it (if an athlete is genetically doping) is if athletes started to drop dead.” In the highly competitive world of professional sports, this is a very grim possibility.

As recently as the 2012 Olypmics, Chinese swimmer, 16 year old Ye Shiwen earned the world’s suspicions by winning the gold in an astonishing record breaking performance that John Leonard, American director of the World Swimming Coaches Association (, described as “disturbing.” Brushing off suspicious criticisms, Ye Shiwen passed all the necessary blood and urine work before competing, but was not tested for genetic modification because, as previously mentioned, these tests don’t really exist. Unfortunately, in the extremely cutthroat world of Olympic sports, the possibility of an athlete engaging in this type of potentially self-destructive behavior is becoming more and more commonplace.

Fortunately, as the science around genetic manipulation grows, a test will surely be discovered that can non- invasively and accurately tell if an athlete is performance enhancing through genetic modification. This test, however, still doesn’t exist, and what that means for the long term effects of the athletes engaging in this kind of behavior is unknown. This also means that athletes performing of their own natural abilities will often be left in the dust of their cheating counterparts, a sad and disturbing truth for the world of sports.

Image credit:  Some rights reserved by the*roving*sheep

About the author: Chris is a blogger for Home DNA, a genetic and paternity testing company.

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