Monday, July 18, 2005

SportsGeneTest.com and ACTN3

I have just returned from Belgrade, where I presented a paper in an invited symposium at the 10th European College of Sport Science meeting. The title of the paper was 'Ban Drugs, Permit Gene Transfer'. Upon my return, I was updating the GMathletes website and discovered the SportsGeneTest website.


To my knowledge, this is the first site to indicate commercial tests for athletic performance. I noticed they have a policy statement, but it is only in German. If anyone can read German, perhaps you would tell me if it is an interesting statement or not!

More information is available through the Australian site 'Genetic Technologies'. In fact, at this page, the 'ethical tell' is a little clearer from their advice for coaches. I quote:

"It is important to note:
  • this test is primarily aimed at elite athletes, serious competitors and teenagers already involved in sport and considering the next steps in terms of professional sports development;
  • this test provides a complementary insight into a person's natural sport gearing and should only be considered as one aspect of a range of elements that go into being a champion, such as determination and the desire to win, enjoyment of the sport, coaching, nutrition, ability and level of fitness;
  • the test may only be beneficial for those children already involved in and enjoying their sport who desire some direction as to their optimum sport or event if considering sport as a career or serious hobby;
  • Genetic Technologies does not recommend or condone using the results of this test to pressure children into any sport or event. Children should only participate in sports that they enjoy for the purpose of fun and exercise."

So, it would seem they are concerned about:

1. These tests being used too early in a competitors life. Perhaps parents might wish to try them on their kids first, as a means of deciding whether it is worthwhile for them to play sport.
2. Genetic determinism - coaches/parents might conclude that the test result is the dominant predictor of performance capacity.
3. Tests might be imposed upon (young) athletes - though notably, they do not demonstrate a concern for adults being tested.

Well, I cover some of these issues in GMA, so perhaps no need to go over old ground. Still, genetic testing has yet to really hit home in the world of sport. It seems to be seen as merely an extension of talent identification, though I am not convinced that the principles are the same.

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