Tue, Aug 23, 2005 - Page 9 News List

It's time to decide whether 'genetic doping' is wrong

By Andy Miah


In any case, to describe genetically modified athletes as mutants or inhuman is morally suspect, for it invokes the same kind of prejudice that we deplore in relation to other biological characteristics, particularly race, gender and disability. After all, many, if not most, top athletes are "naturally" genetically gifted. To refer to these people as mutants would surely invite widespread criticism.

Those who fear that gene doping heralds the "end of sports" should instead recognize this moment as an opportunity to ask critical and difficult questions about the effectiveness and validity of anti-doping tests. Does society really care about performance enhancement in sport?

That may sound like a radical question. But advancement in ethical inquiry relies on the conflict of beliefs and values. For many years, commentators have expressed concerns about the culture of doping in elite sport. Yet, the culture of anti-doping is equally alarming, because it embodies a dogmatic commitment that limits the capacity for critical debate over what really matters in sport.

If anti-doping authorities truly care about sports, then they have a responsibility to re-examine the basic values that underpin their work. They should begin by imagining what would happen if the child of a genetically modified human wanted to become an elite athlete. At the very least, they might then be less prone to imposing the narrow moral position of the sports world on the parent.

Andy Miah, the author of Genetically Modified Athletes: Biomedical Ethics, Gene Doping and Sport, is a lecturer in media, bioethics and cyberculture at the University of Paisley and tutor in ethics of science and medicine at the University of Glasgow.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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