HFL to lead gene doping research
"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.