American ethicist Prof Ronald Green discusses gene-doping
issues this week. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Leading American ethicist Prof Ronald Green disagrees
with the view gene-doping will increase fairness in sport.
The professor for the study of ethics and human values at
Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, discussed gene-doping in a
lecture titled "What's fairness got to do with it?" in
Dunedin this week.
He was speaking during a two-day symposium organised by
Genetics Otago and the university's Centre for Law and Policy
in Emerging Technologies.
Gene-doping is defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada)
as "the non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, genetic
elements, or of the modulation of gene expression, having the
capacity to improve athletic performance".
Prof Green noted some aspects of sport were already, in some
senses, unfair because winners were often born with highly
favourable genetics, including, in some cases, unusually
large lung capacity.
Some people had argued allowing gene-doping would "increase
the fairness and inclusiveness of sports by reducing the
impact of already existing natural genetic variations".
But he believed that, far from enabling less genetically
favoured participants to compete, gene-doping would "very
likely distort sport" by putting an overemphasis on winning.
It was also likely to lead to the "unsafe development" of
what he termed an athletic "gene nobility", by which he meant
a "kind of elite" which used gene-doping to further enhance
their already large natural advantages.
"To the best of our abilities, we should prevent or minimise
the entry of genetic manipulations into sports medicine," he