Should Athletes Test for Gene Doping?
Should Athletes Test for Gene Doping?
Testing for Gene Doping: A Necessity or Invasion of Privacy?
By Tara Balan
For decades now, athletes have been using numerous techniques to enhance their performance in competitions. While the most common approach was to use drugs that increased muscle capacity or decreased recovery time, technology has advanced in our brave new world to find a method that allows athletes to increase their performance by altering their genetic sequences. This phenomenon, known as gene doping, requires athletes to undergo a detailed medical process, making it possible to detect the alterations only through a genetic test. Because of the unfair advantage this would give one athlete over another, gene doping is considered cheating, but requiring a genetic test would raise a number of privacy concerns among athletes and their families. Is it more important to prioritize the fairness of the game over the right to privacy of the individual? And if the lengths gone to ensure fairness in competition interferes with the rights of the athletes, how ethical are sports really in the first place?
Table of Contents
- History of Doping
- The Science Behind Genetic Modifications
- Ethical Analysis of Gene Doping in Athletics
When the first modern Olympics took place back in 1896, one of its main goals was to promote the idea of blending sports with culture and education while setting a good example for social responsibility, which became a concept known as “Olympism” (International Olympic Committee). When it comes to Olympism and the overall ethicality of sports, there are four key values at play (Hanson and Savage).
Breaking these values down a little further and starting off with integrity, “any athlete who seeks to gain an advantage over his or her opponent by means of a skill that the game itself was not designed to test demonstrates a lack of personal integrity and violates the integrity of the game,” ruining the meaning of the competition.
In terms of fairness, there are guidelines for a sport to follow, therefore the playing field must be even in competitions. Players must also take responsibility for their own actions in order to ensure sportsmanlike behavior, which sets a good example for the public. Finally, athletes must respect not only each other but also the rules of the game. With all four of these values in mind, there is a foundation set not just for Olympism, but for sports in general, which results in competition that is seemingly enjoyable for both the athletes and the spectators.
However, it did not take long for athletes to begin to bend these rules. The use of drugs to enhance athletic performance, a phenomenon known as “doping,” dates back to the early 1900s (Merriam-Webster) and seemingly goes against the foundations set by these four values. Since then, hundreds of athletes have been convicted of violating the ideals of Olympism by using banned substances to improve their athletic performance, resulting in their dismissal from athletic teams and prohibition from future competitions. However, in our brave new world, recent advancements in gene-editing technology have allowed for a form of doping known as “gene-doping,” which involves the development of genetic modifications to enhance athletic performance (Vlad, Hancu, Popescu, Lungu). While common forms of doping, such as the oral ingestion of performance-enhancing drugs or injections of these drugs into the bloodstream, can be detected through simple blood and urine tests, gene doping cannot be detected with the current drug testing procedures that athletes are required to undergo before competitions (Kelland). The only way to prove it as of now would be to do baseline genetic tests on athletes months before big competitions, and then again in the days leading up to them (Niller).
Because this process is so invasive, the ethicality of requiring these tests comes into question, even though doping clearly gives the athletes who do it unfair advantages over those who do not. While testing would ensure athletes exhibit conduct that follows the values of Olympism–especially fairness, which is the most prominent value that an athlete doping violates–the question of whether it is ethical to value the fairness of sports over an athlete’s privacy becomes a conundrum with gene doping. The risk of their genetic history being exposed could be a concern for athletes, their family members, and any others who share this information. But is that a risk that athletes should be required to take to ensure that they are playing by the rules?
History of Doping
Doping Through the Years
There have been attempts to dope for hundreds of years, but modern doping is alleged to have started in the early 1900s. The first incident ever cited is that of Tom Hicks, who died from using a mixture of banned substances to win the marathon at the 1904 Olympic games (Vlad, Hancu, Popescu, Lungu). Years later, in the 1930s, the Nazis developed synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone, known as anabolic steroids, which helped increase strength and speed (Anabolic Steroids). Though it is not confirmed, their winning medal count at the 1936 Olympics is likely a result of the development of anabolic steroids (Vlad, Hancu, Popescu, Lungu). Following this, the human growth hormone (HGH), a protein that can be injected into the body to stimulate the growth of bone and cartilage as well as increase the utilization of fat, was first discovered in the 1950s (HHP). It was previously used therapeutically for adults but, in the 1980s athletes started to abuse it once they recognized its positive effects on athletic performance (Vlad, Hancu, Popescu, Lungu). In fact, doping was really in full swing during the 1980s. East Germans were notorious in the 1980s for doping during the Olympics and many other competitions (Vlad, Hancu, Popescu, Lungu). Initially, HGH was not illegal, but soon fatalities began to be reported. Following this, HGH was deemed illegal, among other drugs. Despite these rules, doping continues to be a problem; at least 120 of the athletes who competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics had previously served doping suspensions (Aisch and Lai).
In 1928, doping was formally banned in athletic competitions. This, however, was still with little evidence of doping occurring. Anti-doping testing was not implemented until 32 years later. The consequences of doping became prevalent at the 1976 Olympics when athletes started being stripped of their medals for doing so (Vlad, Hancu, Popescu, Lungu). This made it clear to athletes the severity of their actions, and what could happen to them were they to break the rules. In fact, in recent years we have found that it is possible for an athlete to be charged with the crime of doping well after the fact. Athletes later found to have doped have been stripped of medals and titles. For example, Usain Bolt won the 4 x100 meter relay at the 2008 Olympic games. Eight years passed before it was found that one of his teammates had injected an illegal substance so the whole group was stripped of their gold (Mather).
The organizations that are responsible for supervising professional athletes are known as regulatory agencies.
The three agencies in particular that have the authority to ban doping and enforce anti-doping rules are the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Athletics Federation (IAF), and the biggest enforcer of them all, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) (Ozer, Unal).
The oldest of the three, the IOC, was founded in 1894, just two years before the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The IOC was the biggest promoter of Olympism, which they did in part with the help of other federations which would be responsible for certain aspects of sports and ensuring fair play (International Olympic Federation). The IAF soon became involved in this, becoming the first official regulatory agency to ban doping back in 1928 (Vlad, Hancu, Popescu, Lungu). This was an effective method of banning doping for many years, but as doping became a bigger problem in the later 1900s, the WADA was formed in 1999 in order to strictly enforce anti-doping rules (WADA-AMA). Each year, they come out with a list of banned substances. If an athlete tests positive for any one of those, they will have to suffer consequences of potentially being stripped of past medals or banned from future competitions (WADA-AMA).
To test for doping, athletes are required to take eight different tests.
These tests include bloodwork, urine, and even sometimes saliva samples, and these samples go through a huge process.
First, there is the collection step. A doping control officer is responsible for managing the sample. They are present for the collection of the sample as well. They make sure that the athlete fills out the appropriate paperwork before they go any further. Next, there is the transportation stage. Following the collection process, the sample is shipped to a WADA lab. Occasionally the sample has to undergo an additional sterilization and stabilization process. After that, there is an inspection of the sample. The WADA wants to ensure that there is no tampering with any of the samples so the results may not be changed. The lab then begins the analysis process, in which they actually test the samples for any signs of drug usage. These tests are conducted by professional drug scientists and usually take a few weeks. Finally, they can move onto sending the athletes their results post-testing. But the sample’s journey does not end there. The remains of the sample are stored and can be kept from anywhere between three months and ten years for further testing (Sample Collection).
The Science Behind Genetic Modifications
Gene Doping Process
To examine this new frontier of doping, I will provide some scientific background on gene editing. Scientists inject what are called vectors, or transporter genes, into the cells and muscles. They can also alter an individual’s genes by removing cells but is a far more invasive and difficult process. The most common form of vectors are viruses, because of their ability to lodge themselves into the DNA. Typically these are harmless strains of a virus–doctors would not take the risk of injecting strains of the flu virus or now, the COVID-19, into someone’s body as it would greatly increase their chances of illness.
Injections of the viruses are directed right into the specific muscles to be altered, which prevents the possibility of accidentally sending a virus that was intended to alter a growth hormone into the eyes, or something else similar (How Does Gene Therapy Work).
The gene doping process is essentially the same as the process for genetic therapy; in genetic therapy, when a particular gene is not working, a procedure is done to replace that gene or alter it slightly.
The purpose of gene therapy would one day get rid of many health problems, such as muscular dystrophy or various kinds of anemia. On the other hand, gene doping, like standard doping, is often used for personal gain as opposed to helping others–the intended purpose of gene therapy. Though the motivation for practicing gene therapy and gene doping is different in many scenarios, since the procedure for gene doping is effectively exactly the same as that of gene therapy, the two will be used interchangeably moving forward in this paper unless otherwise specified.
While gene therapy typically focuses on avoidance or improvement from disease, gene doping focuses on improvement within athletic performance. There are 187 genes that are linked to athleticism that can be altered to increase an athlete’s performance (Rogers).
One or several of these genes can be altered at a time, depending on the athlete’s wants and needs (Pound). The scientists can then either perform a somatic cell or germline modification. A somatic cell modification is a genetic modification to a bodily cell, like a lung or a muscle. It is not possible to pass those mutations on to an offspring. On the other hand, a germline cell modification is a genetic mutation to an embryonic cell, which can be passed onto future generations (Nasr). While Dr. Thomas Friedman of the University of California San Diego believes that gene therapy can be used to heal injuries caused by athletics in the future, many scientists are still unaware of the vast intricacies between these various athletic genes, therefore are even less aware of what an alteration, or mutation, to these cells might do. Therefore, using gene doping technology could be extremely dangerous (Pound).
Health Risks of Genetic Therapy
One of the short term effects is an immediate immune reaction (Science Life Administrator). While undergoing genetic therapy could lead to just a fever or small illness, it could also lead to a variety of more dangerous immediate reactions. The athlete’s body might attack the virus delivering the gene and make their body very sick. Additionally, there is a short term risk of uncontrollable hormone productions. With the use of certain gene therapies, such as EPO, red blood cell counts could even become too high, and blood could thicken into a fatal, sludgy consistency. Or, as a result of the modification, cells can divide uncontrollably and form tumors in the body (Science Life Administrator)
On the idea of uncontrollable cellular division, there are a lot more long term risks, such as cancer. Not only could tumors that form as a result of cell division become cancerous, but a genetic modification could also turn on a cancer gene or turn off a cancer-suppressing gene. Additionally, if a gene could insert into a bad place on a chromosome and turn on a cancerous gene. There have been two cases of children who underwent genetic theory to fix a benign problem who ended up contracting leukemia (BioNews).
The effects of gene doping could even spread to the children of the athletes. The most common genetic mutations are typically mutations to sex-linked chromosomes, therefore if there are any mutations to sex-linked chromosomes as a result of gene therapy, the mutations can most definitely be passed to their offspring. What makes it even more dangerous is that this is not preventable, because doctors cannot remove genes from cells and surgeons cannot cut out cells that have been transformed. As gene therapy technology is not mastered yet, it is strictly regulated in the United States and in many other countries. There is a huge likelihood that many rogue experiments will occur, therefore it is not recommended for frivolous and unnecessary things such as athletic performance enhancements (Pound).
The two main points in this section were in regards to the science behind the process for gene therapy and the health risks of undergoing this process.
In discussing the process for gene therapy, I explained how closely linked gene therapy and gene doping are. Since both processes are the same and involve serious alterations to parts of the body (i.e. the genetic code), there are several short term and long term health risks associated with both.
The health risks need to be further explored in order to be prevented; seeing as this technology is only about thirty years old, there is still much to be discovered. Therefore, athletes taking advantage of gene therapy technology in order to dope are putting themselves and others (their potential children) in danger with trivial intentions. Their actions bring up a number of ethical questions pertaining to their intentions, ultimately boiling down to a choice between the fairness in sports and the privacy of their genetic health.
Ethical Analysis of Gene Doping in Athletics
Overview of Ethics and Stakeholders
As mentioned earlier, the only known way to detect gene doping is by running genetic tests on athletes. Because of the invasive nature, it is currently illegal to require athletes to undergo genetic testing, so there is a good chance that some are still taking advantage of the gene doping technology without our knowledge.
If genetic testing were to become mandatory for athletes, what would be the ethical ramifications? Should the fairness of the competition be prioritized over the privacy of the athlete? And at what point should the fairness of the game be compromised to respect their privacy?
There are several stakeholders here, including the athletes doping, the families of the athletes, the WADA, the individuals reviewing the tests, the doctors performing the gene-editing procedure, and the public. In terms of the athletes, they can first and foremost be stripped of their medals if they are caught gene doping. But, every single athlete will be required to take these tests, even those not at fault. Were the results of their tests to be released, it could cause a number of different personal and public problems. On the personal scale, it could cause unnecessary angst about a future state of health and fear of irregular genetic traits that hint towards shorter life expectancies, while on a public scale it could lead to potential genetic discrimination in the workforce, which will be discussed more later. The interesting thing about genetic information is that it obviously does not just belong to one person, it belongs to an entire family line, which is why they are also a stakeholder. All of the aforementioned potential problems apply to the families of the athletes as well. Additionally, if the athletes end up altering their sex chromosomes during the doping process, their children may encounter genetic disorders in their lifetimes.
The WADA is a stakeholder because they have the job to ensure the fairness of the competition. To what lengths should they be going to ensure this fairness? Would requiring genetic tests be taking it too far?
Tying into that idea, were the WADA to determine that genetic tests are necessary, the individuals responsible for reviewing the results of the genetic tests would become a stakeholder here as well. With great power comes great responsibility, and they have to do a careful job of not breaching the privacy of the athletes and their families.
In the occasion that gene dopers are discovered, the doctors performing the procedure could also get in serious trouble were anyone to find out about their involvement. Since gene doping is illegal, doctors could face extreme punishment for being an accomplice to the act. Finally, the public becomes a stakeholder. Without the public and fans, the purpose of sports is unclear, especially since many athletes cite their fans as the reason for continuing to compete at the professional level. Were the public to become aware of athletes not cooperating with the rules, they would likely withdraw support from that individual.
Insurance of Fairness in Competition
One of the ethical values involved with testing for gene doping is fairness, and the question of to what extent fairness of the competition should always be ensured. Drawing back to the theme of Olympism, athletes have the responsibility to play fairly and with integrity, and by doing so they show respect not only for the other athletes competing but also for the spectators. A big part of the success of sports is that there are fans, and the public has expressed discontent towards traditional dopers in the past.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, track-and-field athlete Justin Gatlin was booed by the audience as he stepped onto the track. This reaction was a result of his previous doping allegations many years before (Malone).
Were some athletes to take it a step further by actually altering their genes, the public may view this as an easy way out of hard work and an attempt to deceive spectators. Additionally, young children are often inspired by athletes. What impacts could it have on these children if the individuals they grow up idolizing are gene dopers? It could either set unattainable goals for these kids, or, if the athletes are exposed for doping, children may lose faith in themselves and their ability to achieve greatness on their own.
But what I feel is the main argument to prioritizing fairness over privacy is that it is unfair for athletes who worked hard to be routinely beat by those who are doping. While doping clearly has many physical effects on a person, there are also many psychological factors at play for both the dopers and the other athletes. A person’s desire to dope can come from a number of different reasons, including the desire to stay on top after multiple wins, the need for financial gain through winning, or external pressure from fans (Williams). Regardless, in past competitions, athletes have found it to be extremely aggravating to compete against other athletes who are using performance-enhancing substances. For example, Chinese swimmer Sun Yang was in the midst of years worth of doping allegations when he won a gold medal at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships. To protest Sun’s unsportsmanlike conduct, Australian swimmer Mack Horton refused to stand on the podium with him and declined his handshake.
“I don’t doesn’t have time or respect for drug cheats”-Mack Horton
The athletes’ adverse responses to dopers tie into their desire for justice.
“[Justice is] the moral obligation to act on the basis of fair adjudication between competing claims”– Alzheimer Europe
Justice for non-doping athletes would be a key result of performing genetic testing on athletes to ensure fair competition. There are responsibilities that come with winning and glory, so this genetic testing will provide justice for those who are not doping.
In exploring justice more deeply, I want to talk about justice in fairness. To do so, it is important to understand what is called the “veil of ignorance.” Behind this so-called veil of ignorance, everyone is impartial. Any choice that the athlete makes–whether to gene dope of not–could harm or benefit them, so people must figure out how to have the best possible like without harming themselves or harming others. Other than this, people must only be unequal if these inequalities are of some sort of benefit to everyone (Rawls).
More specifically to what I’m looking at, within the veil of ignorance, there comes the question of whether gene doping could level the playing field for athletes. The likelihood that an athlete can be successful really differs based on their inborn genetic talents. Assuming equal financial access all around, athletes without inborn athletic ability might consider gene doping as a path to success and potentially, in their eyes, allow them to be more equal competitors with those who have more natural ability (Lee).
Therefore, It can be argued that it is more just to allow all athletes to gene dope than to ban it altogether. It allows everyone the chance to make up for imperfections or genetic mutations in their bodies that might otherwise hinder their performance. But, if everyone gene dopes the same amount, there would be no point. It would be as if every student was awarded an additional thirty points on their SATs–their score would be higher, but their percentiles would not change. In terms of gene doping, should we be thinking this way under the veil of ignorance?
The Individual and Familial Right to Privacy
Another important value at play here which contrasts fairness is privacy. Forcing athletes to submit their DNA samples to be tested is a violation of their privacy. As mentioned earlier, the drug testing process is already extremely involved and invasive on the drug testing officer’s part. Requiring athletes to allow their DNA sample to go through that process adds an additional layer of invasiveness; now the drug testing officers not only get a look into the athlete’s drug, they also have information about their family genetic history too.
This dilemma alludes to the question of whether the WADA has the responsibility to be in charge of such personal information, and the broader question of who else should be allowed to see this personal information?
The DNA sample will have to travel through a series of different WADA officials, potentially to members of the IOC, and eventually could be stored for several years. In that time, hackers could potentially break into the WADA files if they are not stored securely, and leak the genetic information online.
Leakage could lead to genetic exploitation or discrimination, which are both instances in which individuals are treated differently because of their genetic profile (Lanton, Garfinkel). Genetic exploitation and discrimination could occur for numerous reasons–desirable hereditary traits, uncommon traits that require medical testing, and many more. The Genetic Discrimination Act (GINA) prohibits genetically based discrimination in both health insurance and employment, but there is still potential for genetic discrimination in the workforce (Lanton, Garfinkel). Though athletes make their main income through their sports, they cannot stay an athlete forever and many turn to desk jobs in the future. This could hinder their autonomy to make decisions about their jobs and lifestyles in the future.
On the idea of autonomy in privacy, there comes the question of a blind genetic test. When an individual takes a genetic test at home or visits a counselor to take a genetic test, it is a voluntary decision, therefore they will likely be prepared to see the results. When an athlete has to take a mandatory genetic test before competition but would not have had the desire to take one on their own, there are no guarantees that they will be ready for the outcome. In a blind genetic test, the athlete would have the choice to send the results of their DNA test to the WADA without seeing it first themselves. This could prevent any unnecessary angst about their findings and future state of their own health or their family’s health (Genetic Test Results). Blind testing could be a viable option for athletes who have not gene doped, as they likely have nothing to hide and will have nothing to fear in the future.
But for those who are gene doping, limiting their autonomy by not allowing blind testing might be a safer option. If while undergoing gene therapy, a modification to their sex chromosome without their knowledge, the effects on their offspring could be dangerous, resulting in genetic mutations as harmless as colorblindness or as serious as down syndrome (OncoLink Team). The possibility of this brings to light the doctor’s role as stakeholder. Not only can a doctor be seriously punished for violating the WADA’s anti-doping rules by helping an athlete gene dope, but they can also be severely reprimanded for a gene therapy session gone wrong (Check). Limiting the autonomy of athletes by compromising their privacy could not only allow for fairness in future competitions, but it can also help future generations.
This section covered the ethical ramifications of requiring athletes to be tested for gene doping, and the ethical implications behind prioritizing the fairness of the game over the privacy of the athletes or vice versa.
In looking at fairness, I described the viewpoints of the athletes involved as well as the role of the public, then moved on to exploring fairness through the lense of justice.
In doing so, the veil of ignorance was brought to light, and the idea of whether allowing gene doping could potentially level the playing field for all athletes. However, in the long run, the playing field will return to its unevenness with everyone just playing at a higher level. On the other side of the spectrum, there is the question of whether athletes and their privacy should be valued above the fairness of competitions. Within the realm of privacy comes an athlete’s autonomy to choose what to do with their own genetic information, and the potential risks of requiring athletes to be tested for gene doping.
Though there is the potential for genetic discrimination and exploitation by requiring tests, there is also the potential to ensure that athletes competing are exhibiting personal integrity by not altering their genetic sequences to enhance their performance.
This compromise of privacy and autonomy could also compromise an athlete’s safety, the livelihood of a doctor, and seemingly goes against the respect that the philosophy of Olympism strives for. Requiring athletes to undergo testing seems to place the respect for the fairness of the game above the respect for the privacy of athletes, setting up a conundrum of how ethical sports truly are.
While the ethics of sports have fairness at the core of its set of values, when privacy becomes a factor in the equation, the ethicality of sports as a whole come into question. When the IOC proposed the idea of Olympism in 1894, doping was not in the equation. Gene doping most certainly was not either. With these additional factors at hand, enforcing the four values of fairness, integrity, responsibility, and respect, becomes more difficult, as these four values begin to conflict with other values. Specific to gene doping, these four values conflict with privacy, autonomy, and safety. While prioritizing fairness over privacy may seem to allow for greater personal integrity and responsibility of athletes, it is also disrespectful towards the athletes’ both privacy and autonomy.
What does it really mean for sports to be fair? Sports are in what’s called a “bracketed morality,” which means that they are in a different category than normal life. The morality and ethics involved in real life do not necessarily apply to sports all the time and vice versa.
This is because of a certain category of behaviors called “gamesmanship” (doping falls into this category), a principle which is driven by morally incorrect principles like “winning is the most important thing” and “cheating is only cheating if you get caught” (Djordjic).
However, this mindset is one that athletes typically take on only during their competitions, and not during their day to day lives. In my opinion, the idea of bracketed morality is conceptually flawed, as it disregards that athletes have made a commitment to uphold fairness, integrity, responsibility, and respect during the competition. Therefore, testing athletes for gene doping would ensure that they are not living in the bracketed morality and instead of playing sports cleanly. But once privacy is factored into the equation, the two sides of the spectrum regarding whether to test or not become less black and white. Families of the athletes could suffer severe financial losses through genetic discrimination, and without the option of blind testing, both gene dopers and non-gene-dopers could learn of genetic diseases that will be passed to their offspring. Should measures with such extreme consequences be taken against all athletes in order to catch just a small percentage of individuals who are breaking the law?
Perhaps there should be certain regulations in place for gene doping testing. I propose that the testing be done in phases. To begin, only those with a past history of traditional doping be required to submit their DNA samples.
This seems reasonable, because those athletes have already betrayed the trust of the WADA, IOC, and the public. Then, if this seems to be running smoothly without hackers breaching the security of the WADA labs and without athletes protesting, the WADA should move on to testing athletes in sports like cycling, weightlifting, and boxing, which are notorious for being the sports that traditional doping is most common in (Sullivan). Finally, the requirement should be expanded to all sports. Doing this over a large period of time and in phases prevents backlash against the WADA, and would make it more difficult for hackers to hack multiple athletes at once. Also, if this process is done in phases, there will potentially be enough medical information to discover a less invasive way to test larger groups of athletes for gene doping. I do believe that testing athletes for gene doping, at least to some extent, is essential to keep the foundations of Olympism. While it does violate the aspect of respect, it ensures that the three other values–fairness, integrity, and responsibility–are kept in mind by the athletes competing.
There have always been cheaters in sports. In the past, other athletes have been affected by these cheaters in varying ways: some are angry and discouraged, and feel that they were stripped of their glory by someone else who gained it unfairly. Others see battling cheaters as a challenge, and incentive to better themselves. But the gene doping phenomena could have an entirely different impact on human identity. The effects of gene doping will get out of hand while the methods to prove it are still not being enforced; as the available gene doping technology advances in our brave new world, athletes will continue taking advantage of it. This could lead to athletes modifying themselves enough to harbor superhuman capabilities, which may become obvious to spectators but will still lack concrete proof. Even if that athlete does end up getting tested, there is the possibility that they might lie and say their abilities are from natural-born genetics, potentially opening the door for other athletes to do so in the future as well (Science Life Administrator). With all of these athletes gene doping enough to have superhuman qualities, it will bring to light the concept of what it means to be a human and how human identity will be perceived in sports. All humans are born with differently-abled bodies, which allows us all to have different abilities.
But with all of this editing, at what point is a line crossed between being a human and being a superhuman? If athletes continue to gene dope without our knowledge, they may cross this line, if there is even a line at all.
There comes some grey area here, as in some situations might it be necessary to alter one’s genetic makeup to enhance their athletic performance? Genetic technologies and hormone therapies can be used to revolutionize people’s lives, like in the case of transgender individuals it can allow them to make the desired transition (Unger). However, all doping laws are violated when someone takes their gender changing hormones, as both testosterone and estrogen are among the WADA’s banned substances (WADA-AMA). Additionally, paraplegics might find it necessary to gene dope in order to have a chance at competing in the Olympics. Would this be crossing the line between human and superhuman? And, with this in mind would it be fair to allow or prohibit these athletes from competing? These athletes are doping in order to feel more comfortable in their own bodies, not to disrespect other athletes or show a lack of integrity. It would be difficult to determine what these lines are with all of the factors involved.
One potential idea would be to have two separate Olympics: one with people who use gene-editing techniques, and one where they do not. But would anyone actually watch this? Would fans be more interested in seeing the non-inborn and superhuman capabilities made possible through the gene-editing Olympics, or more interested in the natural ability of athletes? Let’s say that people do respond positively to these separate Olympics. The public reception might impact an athlete’s decision to gene dope or not. An athlete’s personal thirst for fame could get the better of them, causing them to want to dope. The ideals of Olympism can so easily be hindered by values other than the four main ones. When athletes gene dope they may be going against some of the rules of Olympism, yet testing them seems to go against the values of Olympism as well. For all we know, there could be numerous athletes gene doping right now, but we the public have no idea about this reality. So to finish, I will leave you all with this question. As long as gene dopers are involved, will sports ever truly be ethical?