From: "Allen Murray" ( -- [Thursday, 25 January, 2001.]


You raise an interesting question about gene therapy. Coming from the enzyme replacement therapy side of inborn errors of metabolism, I am very, very skeptical that anyone will ever do anything with gene therapy for athletes. For starters, nobody knows just what gene to express or overexpress. Very few of the experimental gene therapies for legitimate disorders have been successful. On the downside, many have had terrible side effects - like the death of the young man from Arizona in Philadelphia last year. Any athlete who is at the world class level would be nothing more than a fool to try it due to the risk of a negative side effect. It could end the athlete's sports career. If they chose to overexpress a gene for a hormone, such as EPO, there could be a problem with the body's glycosylation system not being able to handle the increased load of nascent protein. Even worse, if it works then there is no way to shut it off after the athlete's career ends. With out shutting it off, the health effects could be devastating. And on and on........

My take on the Scandinavian gene jockeys who have been blowing in the ears about gene therapy to the IOC folks is just that these folks are looking for another source of funding and some publicity. I do not see it as a practical threat. But then again, I may be wrong and the athletes may be dumber and their physician's may be even more unethical than I think.



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