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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 11:56 GMT
Wada to combat genetic cheats
Sport's battle to rid itself of drugs cheats continues
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has called on governments and sporting bodies to treat seriously the threat of the misuse of genetic engineering in sport.

And on Thursday the organisation released its five-point plan for tackling the problem.

The plan was announced at a three-day conference in New York attended by genetics experts, policy makers, representatives of the Olympic movement and athletes from around the world.

  Wada's five-point plan
1: Address changes needed to criminal law
2: Extend corporate liability laws to include directors
3: Extend current sentencing for trafficking illegal technologies
4: More detailed record keeping of gene technologies
5: Improve medical understanding and professional behaviour
Gene transfer technology, while still at the research stage, is seen as having an enormous potential for abuse by athletes trying to gain an unfair advantage.

At the moment gene transfer is being developed to combat some of the most debilitating diseases in the world.

Scientists are hoping that by replacing faulty genes in a patient they can modify and eventual destroy the disease.

But the new technology could, in theory, be used to improve an athlete's performance by suggesting improvements to their body.

The new technology would work in a very similar way to the current crop of banned drugs, but without the side effect of being detectable.


The same people who cheat in sport today will try to find ways to misuse genetics tomorrow
Richard Pound
Wada chairman
There are international guidelines for gene transfer technology, but Wada wants governments to extend these to be more sports specific.

Professor Ted Friedmann of the University of California highlighted this point at the conference.

He said: "The work on genetic therapies should be considered for the future betterment of mankind.

"The time is right, however, for the sport and science communities to begin working out how to prevent the possible misuse of these methods in the future."

Wada chairman Richard Pound added: "Gene therapy has enormous potential but this technology can be abused to enhance athletic performance.

"The same kinds of people who cheat in sport today will probably try to find ways to misuse genetics tomorrow."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Gordon Farquhar
"Treatments could easily be abused"
Wada chairman Dick Pound
"We now understand what is being done scientifically"
See also:

21 Mar 02 | Sport Front Page
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