Genetic doping: WADA we do about the future of ‘cheating’ in sport?

Abstract

Due to developments in science and biotechnology, the concept of ‘gene doping’ is emerging as the number one threat to fair play in sport. This procedure, which involves the manipulation of one’s natural genetic characteristics in order to enhance athletic ability, has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2003. Given the irreversible and potentially undetectable nature of this nascent form of enhancement, it is clear that gene doping poses one of the toughest challenges that anti-doping authorities have yet to face. By adopting an inter-disciplinary approach to the issue that focuses on the scientific, legal, practical and ethical issues associated with this pre-emptive prohibition of gene doping, this article arrives at a somewhat inflammatory and provocative conclusion: it might be time for sport’s stakeholders to consider allowing—and regulating to a safe level—the use of genetic modification in sport. The future of cheating in sport is upon us, and the time to act is now.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Former director at the National Centre for Human Genome and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA (alongside Francis Crick) in 1953.

  2. 2.

    Mottram (2015, pp. 21–23); Matthews (2005, pp. 137–144).

  3. 3.

    Dimeo (2007, p. 130).

  4. 4.

    See Anderson (2018), noting that gene doping is a ‘21st-century means of cheating in sport’.

  5. 5.

    Custer (2007, p. 185).

  6. 6.

    Pound’s introductory comments at the Banbury Workshop are helpfully printed in Schneider and Friedmann (2006, pp. 66–72).

  7. 7.

    McCrory (2003, p. 192); International Olympic Committee (2002). From 2004 onwards, WADA assumed responsibility for publishing and updating the Prohibited List in sport.

  8. 8.

    Munthe (2000).

  9. 9.

    van Hilvoorde et al. (2007, p. 186); Aschwanden (2000).

  10. 10.

    National Human Genome Research Institute (2018).

  11. 11.

    Wright (2006, p. 334).

  12. 12.

    Harridge and Velloso (2009, p. 378).

  13. 13.

    Sporadic references to germ-line modification are made where appropriate (such as in Chapter 3.2).

  14. 14.

    World Anti-Doping Agency (2018a).

  15. 15.

    Polcz and Lewis (2016, p. 415); Battery et al. (2011, p. 494).

  16. 16.

    Barton-Davies et al. (1998); Lee et al. (2004).

  17. 17.

    See generally Schuelke et al. (2004).

  18. 18.

    Schjerling (2005, pp. 23–24); Lippi and Guidi (2004).

  19. 19.

    Schjerling (2005, pp. 25–26).

  20. 20.

    Jones et al. (2002).

  21. 21.

    van der Gronde et al. (2013, p. 678).

  22. 22.

    Boxing provides a particularly interesting case study because scientific evidence has suggested that manipulation of the DREAM gene could lead to the ability to feel less pain caused by injury. See Cheng and Penninger (2003).

  23. 23.

    See Unal and Unal (2004, p. 358).

  24. 24.

    Haisma and de Hon (2006, pp. 259–260).

  25. 25.

    Wells (2008, p. 624).

  26. 26.

    van der Gronde et al. (2013, p. 671).

  27. 27.

    Ho (1998, p. 212); Azzazy (2005, p. 961).

  28. 28.

    Hacein-Bey-Abina et al. (2002).

  29. 29.

    Wells (2008, p. 624).

  30. 30.

    Wells (2009, p. 169).

  31. 31.

    Reiss and Straughan (1996, p. 37).

  32. 32.

    Artioli et al. (2007, p. 350).

  33. 33.

    Fischetto and Bermon (2013, p. 968); Sinn et al. (2005).

  34. 34.

    Gatzidou et al. (2009, p. 42).

  35. 35.

    Wang et al. (2013).

  36. 36.

    Friedmann and Hoffman (2009, p. 246) (noting the reports of patients who developed cancer because of the retrovirus insertions).

  37. 37.

    Heinz and Mashreghi (2017); Kaiser (2015).

  38. 38.

    Polcz and Lewis (2018, p. 9).

  39. 39.

    Ginn et al. (2018, p. 4).

  40. 40.

    Steiner (2011, p. 88).

  41. 41.

    ESPN (2015).

  42. 42.

    Murray (2017, p. 465).

  43. 43.

    Miah (2005, p. 43) (citing David Powell, Spectre of Gene Doping Raises its Head as Athletes see Possibilities (2001) The Times, London).

  44. 44.

    McKanna and Toriello (2010). See also Murray (2009a, p. 143) (stating that the ‘imminence of genetic enhancement appears to be greatly exaggerated’).

  45. 45.

    See, for example, Friedmann et al. (2010, p. 647) (discussing the allegations that a Chinese genetics laboratory offered athletes the chance to genetically modify themselves before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games).

  46. 46.

    Reynolds (2007).

  47. 47.

    Schneider and Friedmann (2006, p. 37).

  48. 48.

    World Anti-Doping Agency (2008).

  49. 49.

    See generally Berthelot et al. (2015); Desgorces et al. (2008).

  50. 50.

    Todd and Todd (2009, p. 65) (highlighting that ‘[f]ans likes to see record lifts and our lifters like to make record lifts’).

  51. 51.

    Miah (2004a, p. 54).

  52. 52.

    For background, see Fotheringham (2017).

  53. 53.

    Ritchie (2015, p. 280).

  54. 54.

    Ostrander et al. (2009); Azzazy and Mansour (2007, pp. 951–952).

  55. 55.

    Brzezianska et al. (2014, p. 253).

  56. 56.

    Fischetto and Bermon (2013, pp. 973–974).

  57. 57.

    Ibid. However, c/f Guescini et al. (2007).

  58. 58.

    Brzezianska et al. (2014, p. 255); Baoutina et al. (2008).

  59. 59.

    International Olympic Committee (2016).

  60. 60.

    Hamlyn (2001).

  61. 61.

    See generally Baoutina et al. (2010).

  62. 62.

    Beiter et al. (2011, p. 228).

  63. 63.

    Fischetto and Bermon (2013, p. 974).

  64. 64.

    Wells (2008, p. 629). See also the discussion of Finnish skier Eero Maentyranta in Chapter 4.2.

  65. 65.

    Jakobsson et al. (2006).

  66. 66.

    CAS 94/129, USA Shooting & Quigley v UIT, para 34.

  67. 67.

    Fore (2010, p. 81).

  68. 68.

    Sottas et al. (2011, p. 971); Robinson et al. (2011).

  69. 69.

    Schmalzer (2009, pp. 690–691) (paraphrasing one French official).

  70. 70.

    On this point, see Chapter 3.2.

  71. 71.

    Munthe (2005, p. 112).

  72. 72.

    Miah (2004a, p. 145).

  73. 73.

    See generally Simon et al. (2018, chapter 4).

  74. 74.

    van Hilvoorde (2005, p. 94).

  75. 75.

    Farrey (2017); Conn (2017). See also the recent and tragic passing of 18-year-old snowboarder Ellie Soutter, which her father attributed to the exorbitant levels of pressure imposed upon children in high-level sport: BBC (2018).

  76. 76.

    Donovan (2009, p. 119).

  77. 77.

    Hoberman (2009, p. 7).

  78. 78.

    Holt and Sonksen (2008, p. 543).

  79. 79.

    Mehlman (2009, p. 220).

  80. 80.

    See generally Tamburrini (2005, pp. 86–87).

  81. 81.

    However, note the recent reports from the genetic sequencing giant Illumina that it may soon be able to sequence an entire human genome for as little as $100: Keshavan (2017).

  82. 82.

    Custer (2007, p. 204).

  83. 83.

    World Anti-Doping Agency (2015), Article 2.5 (tampering with doping control); Article 2.6 (possession of a prohibited substance/method). See also Article 3.2 where it is stated that ‘[f]acts related to anti-doping rule violations may be established by any reliable means’ [emphasis added].

  84. 84.

    CAS 2004/O/645, USADA v Montgomery.

  85. 85.

    Ibid, para 36. However, see the comments made in CAS 2015/A/4059, WADA v Thomas Bellchambers et al, AFL and ASDA where the CAS panel, at para 105, refused to accept that there is ‘no material difference between proof beyond a reasonable doubt and proof of comfortable satisfaction’. The dictum in Montgomery, they argue, was case specific.

  86. 86.

    CAS 2004/A/651, French v Australian Sports Commission & Cycling Australia. See also USADA v Leogrande, AAA Panel Decision dated 1 December 2008 (admission of doping, alongside clear circumstantial evidence, was enough to establish an ADRV).

  87. 87.

    USADA v Collins, AAA Panel Decision dated 9 December 2004 suggests that it might.

  88. 88.

    Bellchambers (See n85), para 144.

  89. 89.

    CAS 2004/0/649, USADA v Gaines. See also USADA v Armstrong (Decision of USADA on disqualification and ineligibility, dated 10 October 2012).

  90. 90.

    McLaren (2006, pp. 198–203).

  91. 91.

    See Knight (2004). BALCO, a San Francisco-based company run by Victor Conte, was accused of supplying designer steroids to a number of high-profile UK and US athletes. For background see Fainaru-Wada and Williams (2006).

  92. 92.

    Scott-Elliott (2014).

  93. 93.

    Dimeo and Moller (2018, p. 72); Bloom (2018).

  94. 94.

    Knowles (2007, p. 246).

  95. 95.

    See generally Mallea (2014; O’Mahony 2008).

  96. 96.

    Wilson (2009, pp. 152–153).

  97. 97.

    Friedmann and Hoffman (2009, pp. 242–243).

  98. 98.

    van Hilvoorde et al. (2007, p. 191).

  99. 99.

    Schneider and Friedmann (2006, pp. 29–31).

  100. 100.

    Ibid. See also Hacein-Bey-Abina et al. (2003).

  101. 101.

    Steiner (2011, p. 65); Juhn (2003, p. 929).

  102. 102.

    Gao et al. (2004).

  103. 103.

    Momaya et al. (2017, p. 484).

  104. 104.

    Ibid.

  105. 105.

    Miller et al. (2016, p. 279); Schneider and Friedmann (2006, p. 24).

  106. 106.

    Franks (2014); c/f Fore 2010, p. 86 (noting that genetic enhancement could ‘put a tremendous strain on other body parts essential to movement such as tendons and ligaments’).

  107. 107.

    Simon (2016, pp. 98–99).

  108. 108.

    See generally Okrent (2011).

  109. 109.

    Coffey (1975, pp. 196–198).

  110. 110.

    Savulescu et al. (2004, p. 669).

  111. 111.

    Cooper (2012, pp. 220–221).

  112. 112.

    van der Gronde et al. (2013, p. 673).

  113. 113.

    Cooper (2012, p. 227).

  114. 114.

    Slavicek (2008, p. 7).

  115. 115.

    Knowles (2007, p. 246).

  116. 116.

    Although the ‘Goldman dilemma’ is a ‘significant piece of evidence’ that remains ‘one of the most cited results in the anti-doping literature’, some authors have questioned its credibility. For example, Connor et al. 2013 highlight various weaknesses in the work including: the wording of the questions, the use of the question method, generalisability over different times and contexts, and no comparable measure of acceptance among the general population. See also Woolf et al. (2017).

  117. 117.

    Goldman et al. (1984, p. 32).

  118. 118.

    Connor and Mazanov (2009, pp. 871–872).

  119. 119.

    For an excellent and engaging discussion of this ‘game theory’ as applied to law, see Farnsworth (2007, pp. 100–109).

  120. 120.

    See generally Haugen (2004).

  121. 121.

    Schneider and Friedmann (2006, p. 47).

  122. 122.

    Anderson (2013, p. 152).

  123. 123.

    For background on Fuentes and the surrounding ‘Operacion Puerto’, see Hardie (2011, p. 160).

  124. 124.

    Dimeo and Moller (2018, pp. 151–153); Schjerling (2005, p. 29) (noting that ‘physicians may… be pressed to allow the use to go too far to achieve the maximal effect’).

  125. 125.

    Green (2009, pp. 84–85).

  126. 126.

    Juengst (2009, p. 184).

  127. 127.

    Schneider (2005, p. 36).

  128. 128.

    This is a slightly reworked example taken from Custer (2007, pp. 205–206).

  129. 129.

    World Anti-Doping Agency (2018b). The other three criteria are that (1) significant health problems would arise without the substance; (2) there is no reasonable therapeutic alternative; and (3) necessity of use is not a consequence of using another prohibited substance.

  130. 130.

    Dimeo and Moller (2018, p. 102); Fotheringham (2000).

  131. 131.

    The question of how long the ban would—and should—be is discussed shortly.

  132. 132.

    Hamilton (2006, p. 40). See also, at pp. 39–40, Hamilton’s discussion of ‘Tommy John surgery’ which can also be used to enhance athletic performance.

  133. 133.

    Lewis (2013, p. 733).

  134. 134.

    Saletan (2005).

  135. 135.

    Miah (2010, p. 224).

  136. 136.

    See Miah (2004a, p. 95); Schneider and Friedmann (2006, p. 87).

  137. 137.

    Filipp (2007, p. 434).

  138. 138.

    WADA (See n14), section S8.

  139. 139.

    Campos et al. (2003); Saugy et al. (2006, p. i14).

  140. 140.

    CAS OG/98/002, Rebagliati v IOC, para 26.

  141. 141.

    See generally Houlihan (2002, pp. 91–92, 110).

  142. 142.

    Schneider and Friedmann (2006, pp. 33–34).

  143. 143.

    Westbury (2017). See also Ingle (2018) who highlights the dubious science behind Chris Froome’s recent exoneration for high levels of salbutamol in 2017.

  144. 144.

    Viret (2015, p. 445).

  145. 145.

    Sinex and Chapman (2015).

  146. 146.

    Karp (2011).

  147. 147.

    Loland and Caplan (2008, p. 75); see also Loland and Murray (2007, p. 195).

  148. 148.

    See the most recent discussion in Murray (2018, pp. 139–144).

  149. 149.

    WADA (See n83), Article 4.3.1.

  150. 150.

    Ibid, Article 4.3.1.1 - 4.3.1.3.

  151. 151.

    Miah (2004a, p. 36).

  152. 152.

    Ibid.

  153. 153.

    Hoberman (1992, p. 104).

  154. 154.

    Sigman (2008, p. 133).

  155. 155.

    Lin and Allhoff (2008, pp. 252–254).

  156. 156.

    Steiner (2011, p. 69).

  157. 157.

    See generally Mundie and Jurejko (2017).

  158. 158.

    Stefani (2012, p. 14) (noting that the suit has ‘15% less drag than conventional swimwear fabric’); Foster et al. (2012, p. 717).

  159. 159.

    Miah (2004a, p. 98).

  160. 160.

    Murray (2018, p. 166). See also, at p. 56, where he states that ‘the line between “natural” and “unnatural” can be tough to see at times’.

  161. 161.

    Kaebnick (2013).

  162. 162.

    Murray (2018, p. 166). He uses concepts such as ‘organic’, ‘rational’, ‘voluntary’ and ‘person’ to illustrate his point.

  163. 163.

    Ibid, p. 167.

  164. 164.

    President’s Council on Bioethics (2003).

  165. 165.

    Steiner (2011, p. 71). However, c/f Siprashvili and Khavari 2004, pp. 97–98.

  166. 166.

    Custer (2007, p. 208).

  167. 167.

    Quigley (See n66), para 15.

  168. 168.

    Flint (2008, pp. 835–836).

  169. 169.

    WADA (See n83) 11.

  170. 170.

    Miah (2004a, p. 166).

  171. 171.

    Anderson (2010, pp. 126–127).

  172. 172.

    Demonstrating that one bore ‘No Significant Fault or Negligence’ for their genetic modification under Article 10.5 WADC is also another possibility, but it is perhaps a less attractive one for athletes because, unlike under Article 10.4, it does not necessarily lead to an automatic elimination of the period of ineligibility. In sum, the degree of fault is assessed under Article 10.5.

  173. 173.

    CAS 2006/A/1025, Puerta v ITF, para 11.4.1.

  174. 174.

    CAS 2009/A/1296, ITF v Gasquet.

  175. 175.

    See also the more recent example of The Football Association v Livermore, 8 September 2015, where a footballer was able to avoid a ban after he successfully attributed his ingestion of cocaine to a recent family bereavement.

  176. 176.

    WADA (See n83) 63.

  177. 177.

    The refusal to allow Article 10.4 to operate in such scenarios is to cater for those situations where an associate agrees to ‘take the fall’ for an athlete by claiming to have spiked their food or drink. See CAS 2002/A/432, D v FINA, para 9.3.11. For a more recent application which neatly highlights the strictness of this test, see CAS OG 16/25, WADA v Narsingh Yadav & NADA.

  178. 178.

    McArdle (2015, p. 300) [emphasis added].

  179. 179.

    See CAS 2005/C/976 & 986, FIFA & WADA, Advisory Opinion, para 73.

  180. 180.

    CAS 2006/A/1041, Vassilev v FIBT & BBTF.

  181. 181.

    CAS 2005/A/990, Pobyedonostsev v IIHF. For commentary on this case, see David (2017, pp. 390–391).

  182. 182.

    Ibid, para 36.

  183. 183.

    WADA (See n83), Article 3.1.

  184. 184.

    See Chapter 4.2.

  185. 185.

    This is also a solution proposed by Anderson (2016, pp. 265–266).

  186. 186.

    See text to n266. Given that WADA is a private foundation with no authority to target companies and individuals who have not submitted to sports regulations, such cooperation would be key.

  187. 187.

    Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (2018).

  188. 188.

    Noakes (2006, p. 289).

  189. 189.

    Gardiner et al. (2012, p. 68).

  190. 190.

    Craik (2011, p. 73).

  191. 191.

    Quinn (2002, p. 186).

  192. 192.

    Craik (2011, p. 72).

  193. 193.

    Miah (2004a, p. xviii).

  194. 194.

    Sherwin and Schwartz (2005); Chadwick and Wilson (2005).

  195. 195.

    Magdalinski and Brooks (2002).

  196. 196.

    See, for example, Miah (2004a, pp. 53–54) (stating that media attention surrounding gene doping has been ‘sensationalistic and has sought to ground hysteria about the possibility for creating superhumans in sport’).

  197. 197.

    Miah (2004b).

  198. 198.

    Tamburrini and Tannsjo (2005, p. 1).

  199. 199.

    Sandel (2007, p. 26).

  200. 200.

    President’s Council on Bioethics (See n164), p. 142.

  201. 201.

    See, for example, Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2002).

  202. 202.

    See Schneider 2005, p. 36 (arguing that ‘the way in which the public will treat gene transfer technology if and when it becomes readily available is unknown’).

  203. 203.

    Food Standards Agency (2018); Smithers (2013).

  204. 204.

    Lopez (2017).

  205. 205.

    Polcz and Lewis (2018). For an interesting survey of professional athletes’ opinions on the topic, see Dierickx et al. (2012).

  206. 206.

    Polcz and Lewis (2018, pp. 5, 39–40).

  207. 207.

    Ibid, pp. 25–26.

  208. 208.

    Ibid, p. 32.

  209. 209.

    The citizens of East Germany, China and Russia, for example, may all have radically different views on the potential legalisation of gene doping in their respective countries.

  210. 210.

    Miah (2004a, p. 177).

  211. 211.

    See text to n137.

  212. 212.

    See generally Breivik (2005, p. 175).

  213. 213.

    Posner (2008, p. 1734).

  214. 214.

    See Griffith-Jones (1997, p. vii).

  215. 215.

    Dimeo and Moller (2018, p. 24).

  216. 216.

    Ibid, pp. 29–33.

  217. 217.

    Custer (2007, p. 197).

  218. 218.

    Ashworth (2013, p. 77).

  219. 219.

    Ibid.

  220. 220.

    Miah (2004a, p. 171).

  221. 221.

    Polcz and Lewis (2018, p. 33). Interestingly, 29% were in favour of legalisation when the substance was simply referred to as a “drug”.

  222. 222.

    World Anti-Doping Agency (2018c); Catlin and Murray 1996, p. 237 (stating that a ban on PEDs is necessary to ensure that ‘all athletes compete on a level playing field’).

  223. 223.

    Smith and Stewart (2008, p. 124).

  224. 224.

    Petersen and Kristensen (2009, p. 97).

  225. 225.

    Hadhazy (2008).

  226. 226.

    Dabholkar (2013, p. 58).

  227. 227.

    Seaton (2005).

  228. 228.

    Savulescu et al. (2004, p. 667).

  229. 229.

    Simon (2016, p. 103).

  230. 230.

    Savulescu et al. (2004, p. 667).

  231. 231.

    Juengst (2009, p. 197); Simon (2016, pp. 126–129).

  232. 232.

    Frias (2016, p. 107).

  233. 233.

    Juengst (2009, pp. 198–199).

  234. 234.

    Varley et al. (2018, p. 16).

  235. 235.

    Tannsjo (2005).

  236. 236.

    Ibid, p. 68; van Hilvoorde (2005, pp. 98–99) (stating that ‘admiration of athletes will… be concentrated on the sacrifices endured to actualize their genetic predisposition’).

  237. 237.

    See generally Tamburrini (2007).

  238. 238.

    Murray (2018, p. 16).

  239. 239.

    For further insight into this issue, see Knapton (2015); Bouchard (2004).

  240. 240.

    Murray (2009b, p. 230).

  241. 241.

    American Academy of Neurology (2014).

  242. 242.

    On this point, see also the related discussion surrounding the existence of the so-called brain doping amongst athletes, a technique that uses electrical stimulation to help make it easier to learn new sporting skills and reduce fatigue. If this were possible, it would mean that even admired personality traits could be modified independently from the question of genetics. See Reardon 2016.

  243. 243.

    Murray (2009b, p. 228); Murray (2018, p. 22) (discussing the role that ‘life experiences’ may have on an athlete’s ability to persevere through hardship).

  244. 244.

    See text to n22.

  245. 245.

    Allison (2005, p. 153).

  246. 246.

    Loland (2005) skilfully outlines this distinction in his so-called vulnerability thesis.

  247. 247.

    Tamburrini (2007, p. 261).

  248. 248.

    van Hilvoorde (2005, p. 96).

  249. 249.

    Carr (2000, p. 2).

  250. 250.

    Greif and Merz (2007, p. 87); Mehlman (2009, p. 212).

  251. 251.

    Miah (2004a, p. 36).

  252. 252.

    Cooper (2012, p. 220).

  253. 253.

    Murray (2018, p. 75).

  254. 254.

    Bacalao-Fleury (2011, p. 207).

  255. 255.

    Onywera (2009, p. 106).

  256. 256.

    Fore (2010, p. 93).

  257. 257.

    Athletes who exhibit levels of gene expression that are above what could be considered ‘safe’ should be prevented from competing.

  258. 258.

    International Association of Athletics Federations (2018).

  259. 259.

    See Murray (2018, p. 14) (noting that in American football ‘wide receivers can weigh half as much as offensive linemen, but they need to be fast, elusive, have great hands and the courage to catch a pass knowing they’re likely to get hit’).

  260. 260.

    Ibid, p. 30.

  261. 261.

    Ibid.

  262. 262.

    The Economist (2016); BBC (2017); Murray (2018, pp. 61–66).

  263. 263.

    Murray (2009b, pp. 227–228).

  264. 264.

    Buckley (2008, p. 90).

  265. 265.

    Anderson (2010, p. 167).

  266. 266.

    As Anderson (2016, p. 266) concludes, this approach would be an integrated one ‘favouring statutory “gateways” of cooperation between sports bodies and drug, law and custom enforcement agencies’.

  267. 267.

    Associated Press (1998).

  268. 268.

    Schneider and Friedmann (2006, p. 69).

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James Brown was a former LLM Sports Law (with Distinction) graduate from Nottingham Trent University and a former first-class LLB graduate from Keele University.

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Brown, J. Genetic doping: WADA we do about the future of ‘cheating’ in sport?. Int Sports Law J 19, 258–280 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40318-019-00141-y

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Keywords

  • Genetic modification
  • Enhancement
  • Anti-doping
  • Doping regulation
  • Sports law