An Australian company already offers the first genetic performance test for the ACTN3 gene which has been linked to sprint and power performance. The report authors are sceptical about whether this test is useful but anticipate that more advanced versions of these tests will be available in future. They highlight two dangers of genetic performance tests. Firstly, genetic performance tests might later be linked to disease.
For example, a muscle growth gene may later be linked to cancer growth. Secondly, genetic performance tests can be performed even before birth and this may lead to the selection of foetuses or to abortions based on athletic potential.
Genetic Technology and Sport (Ethics and Sport)
The report recommends genetic counselling and that the testing should be confined to mature individuals who fully understand the relevant issues. Genetic tests might also be used to screen for health risks during sport such as genes that are linked to sudden cardiac death. Genetic tests for sudden cardiac death are already available but the report recommends that such testing should not be enforced on athletes.
Problems with mandatory testing are highlighted by the case of the basketball player Eddy Curry, who had an irregular heart beat. Curry was asked by his club, the Chicago Bulls, to perform a predictive genetic test for a heart condition.
ISBN 13: 9780415342377
The athlete refused and was traded to the New York Knicks who did not make such a demand. In future, genetic tests might be used to identify those that respond with the biggest drop in cholesterol, blood pressure or glucose to exercise.
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The authors say that genetic testing might also be used to detect gene doping, which may be a real threat by the time of the London Olympics in , or to show that positive doping tests are the result of a genetic mutation in an athlete. The report recommends that genetic testing should be used for anti-doping testing as long as the genetic samples are destroyed after testing.
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