Talk:Gene doping

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"Gene doping is a term used to refer to the abuse of legitimate medical gene therapy treatments that modify a person's genetic makeup; most often in the context of illegally enhancing sporting performance."


This sounds to me like biased phrasing. Who's to say that altering one's DNA is abuse? Why can't it be a legitimate individual right? What makes one treatment legitimate and one "abuse", other than the law or social norms? Scott Dubin


you're right. I've gone through and (hopefully) made the article more neutral. Next time, feel free to be bold and make changes yourself. Best wishes, [[User:Meelar|Meelar (talk)]] 06:15, 2004 Sep 7 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I think you are both mistaken. I do not see any such bias (I myself am a graduate student in genetics - read my bio). Clearly put, this is not a statement that all genetic modificaion is abuse: "Gene doping is the ABUSE of LEGITIMATE medical gene therapy treatments" (caps added). Read it "Gene doping is a term used to refer to the abuse of legitimate medical gene therapy treatments". That's fairly plain language. Also, the changes you added were incorrect - gene doping is not exclusive to sports. ClockworkTroll 11:56, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Very well, but would you care to explain why using gene therapy to enhance athletic performance is "abuse"? Scott Dubin


Hi, Scott -

I think you may be over-reading this a bit. Gene doping is what it is because it is abuse, it is not abuse because it is gene doping. Perhaps it would be more plain to specify that gene doping (in sports) is not a treatment for a flaw, but - like taking HGH - a method of cheating to get ahead?

You seem to be asking more about the fundamental meaning of the abuse, which is beyond the scope of the article (only the legal nature is relevant here - it's abuse because they say so).

However, your question is a very, very good one, which politicans and philosophers have been struggling with for a number of years. When exactly does the use of a treatment become misuse? This got me seriously thinking, and here are some sites I perused:

I'll admit that the debates on these sites are verbose, so I skimmed them a bit. However, philosophy was my minor, so I'll attempt to take an amateur stab at it myself. Naturally I expect that the result will be imperfect, though, as many greater minds than mine still haven't adequately solved this problem.

What is abuse?[edit]

The "abuse" is a difficult term to work with. While the majority of people will agree that a particlar example is (or is not) "abuse", there are often many cases for which classification is difficult.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law defines abuse in this context as

to put to a use other than the one intended: as
a : to put to a bad or unfair use <abusing the powers of office>
b : to put to improper or excessive use <abuse narcotics> [1]

The Legal View[edit]

For the purposes of law and social norms, the "original purpose" is the primary (and only necessary) definer of abuse. (Of course, you want a deeper answer, so in the subsequeent section I will try to drill down beyond human designations.) Part B of this definition is, for the purpose of law, fully adequate and appropriate.

A good analogy here is the use of growth hormone to improve athletic performance. In this case, the "intended" uses of human growth hormone are to stimulate growth in children with retarded growth (such as those with a form of skeletal dysplasia), or to increase muscle mass in adults suffering from muscle-wasting disorders (such as Prader-Willi syndrome). However, if one already has adequate muscle mass then HGH's only possible uses are non-medical (and therefore "unintended"): to improve one's athletic performance or satisfy one's vanity.

A superficial definition would therefore be something like the following:

to put to improper or excessive use, according to the intended use of that which is being used.

Beyond the Law[edit]

The word "abuse" is similar to the word "drug", in that the majority of people will agree on many clear-cut examples of what is (or is not) "abuse", but it escapes a precise and all encompassing definition.

Here, I will attempt to narrow down the definition of "abuse" by following a few steps:

  1. Including all the things which the term clearly fits;
  2. Excluding all the things which the term clearly does not fit; and
  3. Drawing the plainest possible line somewhere in between, and explaining why the line belongs there and not somewhere else.

We'll start with some clear cases of abuse of various substances:

  • Heroin or cocaine were once considered to be respectable medications whose use was not abuse, but administering these substances for virtually any reason are now considered abuse of those substances.
  • Normal use of water for drinking and swimming is clearly not abuse of water, but it is abuse when turning a firehose on peaceful protestors.
  • Spray-painting a model airplane is not abuse of the paint, but putting it a bag and huffing it obviously is.

From this list alone it becomes very obvious that abuse is not a fundamental property of an item itself, but rather of the intention of its use. For the purposes of this argument, I will to the objects or substances as "items", to their implementations as "uses", and to the combination of the two as "item-uses".

Our question is, then: does any general definition cover all of the clear cases of "abuse", and none of the item-uses that clearly aren't abuses, drawing a clear line in between?

Let's go back to our above definition

to put to a use other than the one intended

This definition is like saying "using a substance in an illegal manner". It might cover more or less the right set of item-uses, but it does this not satisfy requirement 3. It does not explain why the line belongs there and not somewhere else. After all, the point of trying to define "abuse" in the first place might well be to decide which uses should be considered abuse and which should not! Defining "abuse" in this manner short-circuits this project.

Part B is similarly subjective, and therefore not useful to us:

b : to put to improper or excessive use <abuse narcotics> 

It seems that the useful kernel of the definition is part A:

a : to put to a bad or unfair use <abusing the powers of office>

It's hard to get more vague than "bad", but my good friend [dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=bad] offers this definition (among many others that are clearly inappropriate): injurious in effect; detrimental. This seems helpful, and the abuses of herion, spray paint, and water clearly fit this modified definition. This does not necessarily cover gene doping (or many other forms of doping for that matter), however, which has the potential to actually increase the health of the person partaking in it. This is where the last part of of the definition becomes relevant:

unfair: not just or evenhanded; biased

Simply put, doping in general cannot possibly be fair unless every athlete (in the sporting context) has identical access to the same selection of performance enhancing technology, and therefore any person taking an unfair advantage is abusing the doping agent. Rather than allow the Olympics to become a giant mess where the most industrialized athletes simply compete with one another for the best doping agent, the Olympic Committee has wisely chosen to ban all doping.

Therefore, I propose the following definition of the word "abuse", as it refers to a substance or treatment:

to put to an injurious, detrimental or unfair use 

This philosophy extends into the "real world" as well, where a definition like this, when really examined, has some potentially serious political consequences. Such enhancements, if only given to a select few, would by definition be abuse. They would not be abuse if everybody that wanted or needed them had equal access to them.

One question this analysis of the word "abuse" raises is a difficult one: isn't it abuse of wealth when some nations have so much, and others so little?

I hope this helps: I put alot of work into it. ClockworkTroll 19:31, 26 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Sorry about the late reply. Here's a thought: I can see that gene doping is "abuse" of a technology if it is used for the purpose of cheating, as per the definition of doping, I assume. Cold blooded murder could be seen as the abuse of a gun and identity theft can be seen as the abuse of a credit card.

So, as long as we're talking about the subject of cheating, gene doping can be seen as abuse because of that element. This would mean in a contest without anti gene doping rules it would not be abuse.

On the other hand, since I tend to be a determistic atheist, I don't think there is any inherent difference between aquiring the superior genes through technological means or aquiring them from a fortunate mating or because one monkey smashed another's head in and managed to reproduce.

I think the safest conclusion I can come to is that the Olympics are an "amateur" sporting event and thus meant for the most common of us. Introducing doping into the event would probably fall outside the purview of the Olympics, and if cheating= abuse, there we have it. This is a similar conclusion to the one you've reached. I'll need to check out the bioethic links you provided a little later.

Scott Dubin 23:29, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)


Scott -

I'm glad that you've read this - you seem to agree with me that "abuse" has nothing to do with "morality", and to confuse the two complicates both topics unnecessarily. However, you seem to still think that I'm saying something different. Are you basing your reaction on an assumption of what you think I mean, or am I saying something specific to make you think this? ClockworkTroll 04:47, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Ethics of gene doping[edit]

What about the other side? What about the view that, should we stop evolution of human beings, or transhumanism just because there is a supposed view of what defines "normal"? So if they start clamping down on it, does that mean people with mutations or evolved such naturally and eventually get genetically detected, lets say, they get disqualified? Why doesn't the article mention this argument? -- Natalinasmpf 21:54, 19 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Significance of gene doping?[edit]

Fellow contributors, with all due respect, I have to question whether there actually is such a thing as gene doping and, for that matter, whether there is likely to be in the near future. As far as I know there has never been a proven instance of gene doping in cycling (which is my usual subject) or in other sports. Has there even been a credible accusation? It seems to me that the task of constructing a viable gene vector is well beyond the reach of any but the most sophisticated scientists, who would be unlikely to devote themselves to such a dubious purpose. As many of you may know, the use of gene therapies even for the most noble causes remains fraught with difficulties. I think an abuse-able therapy is years or decades away. In the case of recombinant DNA technology, for example, there was no application to doping until after a pharmaceutical product erythropoietin had been approved. (See my article on blood doping if interested.)

I was about to delete the reference to gene doping in the article on the World Anti-Doping Agency as off-topic, but decided to come here first. So, is there any fire here, or even smoke?

BitQuirky 01:21, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

I deleted the gene doping paragraph from the World Anti-Doping Agency page today.

BitQuirky 14:54, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Since the WADA has already forbidden gene doping, and funds several research projects in an effort to prevent it, I think there is enough smoke...

Remember that the first instance of EPO doping was discovered by accident - it was known however that people were doing it. Gene doping is rather clouded in this respect, as although it is very difficult to detect, it could be punished far worse than a sport offence - as genetic modification of humans without special permits is generally considered a criminal offence.

I think that since the IGF-I method with an AAV-vector virus works for mice, gene doping is today's technology.

DNA testing[edit]

Hi, i realise that the particulars of gene doping appear to be unclear, but I think there should be some information in the article page about whether DNA testing would determine whether gene doping occurred or not. (Especially where other tests are mentioned.) Cheers. -postglock 23:52, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Vandalism[edit]

Earlier this page contained an expletive that I removed, but it appears that someone is continuing with this vandalism. "Mad swole" seems to be a favorite phrase of this vandal. I'm not sure what can be done about this, so if anybody knows, please do. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Cnyh (talkcontribs) 15:42, 10 February 2007 (UTC).

Dead link[edit]

World Anti-Doping Agency Website -> "http://www.wada-ama.org/en/t1.asp" is not working

Humans?[edit]

Should not athletes be 100% human? Because if not, the cheetahs are going to win the 100m and the Ourang-Utans the weight lifting. --Streona (talk) 23:06, 16 August 2012 (UTC)