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Performance-Enhancing Gene Therapy May Be Next For Cheating Athletes

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Aired 2/8/10

A member of the World Anti-Doping Agency says gene therapy is the new frontier in the fight against performance-enhancing substances.

— A member of the World Anti-Doping Agency says gene therapy is the new frontier in the fight against performance-enhancing substances.

Injecting new genes into a body can cure disease or alter physical traits. That's why Theodore Friedmann, a professor of medicine at UCSD, believes gene therapy will be used to make athletes perform better.

Friedmann is chairman of the genetics panel for the World Anti-Doping Agency, and he wrote a commentary in the journal Science to draw attention to his concern. Friedman said researchers have already used gene therapy to make lab mice mice more muscular or energetic.

"It does not yet exist in a documented way in human sport," he said. "But I think we all feel that it is probably inevitable. The tools are just simply too available and too tempting to avoid using.

Friedmann said sports must learn to test athletes for certain genetic signatures, to learn whether they're using gene doping to cheat.

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