Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lotions & Potions: The Quest for Performance Enhancement

A symposium at DeSales University in the USA takes place today discussing the use of steroids in sport. It is hosted by the Bioethics Society and offers the following outline.

Bioethics Society to discuss steroid use, Tuesday, March 29

"With opening day just around the corner, the U.S. House of Representatives recently took a mighty swing at Major League Baseball's efforts to eradicate steroid use. Another pitch now comes from the Baranzano Society on bioethics. This regional association will sponsor the forum, "Lotions & Potions: The Quest for Performance Enhancement" from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29, in the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales. The program will feature a panel of experts in health, science and business, who will discuss the facts and fictions of performance enhancing drugs. The event is open to the public free of charge.

The Congressional hearings shone a national spotlight on baseball players and the prevalence of steroid use in record-breaking performances. Yet use of steroids appears to be rampant, even among amateur athletes and young people, in general. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to a 300 percent increase in the last ten years, with more than 500,000 high school students claiming to have tried steroids.

In addition, according to Rep. Tom Davis, a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan found that "the perception among high school students that steroids are harmful has dropped from 71 percent in 1992, to 56 percent in 2004." Yet, anabolic steroids are regulated as illegal controlled substances.

During the round table discussion at DeSales, the panel of experts will address the health ramifications, ethical dilemmas, and social consequences of using pharmacological advances to enhance personal performance. The panelists include: Dr. Jay Hoffman, professor of health at The College of New Jersey and vice-president of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, who will report on his meetings with professional baseball coaches during spring training. Also, Richard Bartolacci, founder and president of JBN Enterprises, who will address the issue from the viewpoint of the sports and nutrition supplement industry, and Father Douglas Burns, OSFS, director of the Sport & Exercise Science program at DeSales, who will speak on the subject in terms of sport ethics."

link to site

Monday, March 28, 2005

WADA's Play True - Gene Doping

The first 2005 issue of WADA's magazine 'Play True' is all about Gene Doping. WADA President Richard Pound leads the publication, identifying that 'gene therapy represents an exciting and promising step forward in medical research, but its use to enhnace athletic ability is as wrong as any type of traditional doping'.

It is not the first time that the magazine has discussed gene doping, but the profile in this issue is significant. WADA have set-up a gene doping panel, which includes H. Lee Sweeney, Olivier Rabin (WADA Science Director) and Theodore Freidmann, among others.

Pound emphasises the need for regulatory frameworks in gene transfer technology and Thomas H. Murray (The Hastings Center and WADA Ethics and Education) provides an ethical analysis of the issue.

On Detection:
The issue includes a couple of main points about detection. It first identifies that many athletes have a 'false sense of security about wheher gene doping can be detected'. It goes on to state that 'It might be difficult to see that a particular gene has been added to the body, but there will be consequences to that addition that can be seen and measured'. They conclude 'Bottom line? Detection is possible and probable', but there are no tests yet.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Superhumans, mutants and monsters

Superhumans, Mutants and Monsters: Gene Doping, Bioethics and the Posthuman Game
University of Toronto, Canada.

I just got back from UoT, where i gave a presentation on this topic. I wanted to talk a bit about how posthumanism is evolving as a body of literature and how it relates to competing ideas on transhumanism and cyborgology.

It always suprises me (pleasantly) at how different people approach this subject. The cover of GMA has written the content for many of my talks on this subject. This week conversations got into the subject of 'feline' modifications and the possible colonial interpretations of enhancement. For example, could we think about the discourse of posthumanism as similar to how people of certain races might have been characterised as savage or other. Alternatively, does the morphed human with cheetah tell us anything about the gendered nature of enhancement? What kind of animal would we like to look more like and what does thi reveal about our values and assumptions about beauty?

Interesting lines i think. If you would like to view the presentation click here (microsoft powerpoint needed, best on Mac OSX and office 2004)

Modafinil and cognitive enhancements

Kaufman, K. R. and R. Gerner (2005). "Modafinil in sports: ethical considerations." Br J Sports Med 39(4): 241-244.

Kaufman and Gerner discuss the case of modafinil, asking whether athletes should be sanctioned for this use. The article provides a clear exposition of how the rules of anti-doping apply to the case of Kelli White, who claimed her use of modafinil was therapeutic for narcolepsy. However, due to her failing to file this condition when submitting her doping tests, exemption could not be granted. The authors consider whether this substance is an indication of further doping in sport, since it is unlikely that many cases of athletes with narcolepsy should arise in elite sports, due to the rarity of the condition.

Questions concerning cognitive enhnacements in sports have not been given much attention in the literature. There is considerable scope to question the way in which enhancement is defined in sports by examining these issues. The role of cognitive function in sport is not so easily quantified for performances, since it is not possible to connect specific movements with specific cognitive capacities.

Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a range of activities for which cognitive enhancements are essential and, thus, there WADA believes that there are good reasons to require the World Chess Federation to develop an anti-doping policy.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Bioethics and Human Excellence

Details of a bioethics symposium where performance enhancement makes the programme.

Ethics Symposium: Bioethics and Human Excellence
Centennial Celebration Event
Southwest Missouri State University
Friday and Saturday, March 4-5, 2005
Plaster Student Union Theatre

Organized by

College of Humanities and Public Affairs
Pamela R. Sailors, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head, Department of Philosophy
Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Select proceedings being considered for a special edition of Philosophy and Public Affairs

The session on performance and sport included the following papers:

Session II: Bioethics and Human Enhancement: Superior Performance

4:00-6:15 p.m.


Courtney S. Campbell, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Director, Program for Ethics, Science, and the Environment, Oregon State University

Mark A. Holowchak, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Kutztown University, former professional powerlifter


Permanent medical implants in the body (bionics)

Sport and the Superior Athlete: Different ways of Enhancing Performance (equipment, training, native powers)

Targeting Specific Deficiencies of Old Age: Muscle Enhancement, Memory Enhancement

Moderator: Jeff Nash, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, SMSU

link to more info

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Genetic tests for Rugby team

Dennis, C. (2005). "Rugby team converts to give gene tests a try." Nature 34: 260.

Carina Dennis writes in Nature about an Australian rugby league team which aims to use genetic tests to stream-line training methods. The article quotes someone from the Australian Law Reforms Commission, whose report 'Essentially Yours' deals with this subject at some length. Australia seems to be taking a leading role in thinking through these issues. Ron Trent's work at the University of Sydney is central to this research and he claims that we still do not know enough about genes for this purpose. Issues of privacy and discrimination are central to this topic. Will genetically risky athletes be prevented from participation? Will young children who dont fit the profile be excluded? Will sports authorities have the legal power to demand genetic info from athletes?

Friday, March 11, 2005

HFL to lead gene doping research

Quote from UK Sport link

"The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced a major research award of $400,000 (£212,000) to HFL – one of the UK’s WADA-accredited laboratories. The funding will support a three-year programme managed by HFL which aims to develop suitable detection methods for gene doping.

WADA defines gene doping as "the non-therapeutic use of genes, genetic elements and/or cells that have the capacity to enhance athletic performance". The practice is banned under the WADA list of prohibited substances or methods, although there is currently no way in which it can be detected.

With the support of WADA funding, HFL will manage a consortium of scientific experts on gene doping from Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Free Hospital in London. "As soon as new technology becomes available, it is subject to abuse by those who have no interest in fair competition," said David Hall, Chief Executive Officer of HFL. "This funding will help us to develop methods of detecting gene manipulation."

The potential threat of gene doping has been long recognised by WADA, which has devoted a significant share of its research funds finding a solution to the problem. This concentrated effort is back by John Scott, Director of Drug-Free Sport at UK Sport. "Gene therapy is a major medical breakthrough which could transform the lives of many people who suffer from muscle wasting diseases," he said. "However, it is also a dream come true for an athlete wishing to cheat, particularly while it remains undetectable.

"The development of such a detection method is key in protecting the integrity of sport, and it is testimony to the expertise at our disposal that British scientists are at the forefront on this research."

In addition, HFL has been awarded up to £800,000 by the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) to investigate gene doping specifically for the horseracing industry"

It is great that the UK is moving on this. I met Ian Gibson MP in July 2004 to discuss the state of anti-doping in the UK. He agreed that this issue needs to be placed on the political agenda. This is one indication that some wheels are turning but where's the ethical framework for the strategy? Detect-test is only part of the system.