Genetic Codes Could Be Used to Test for Doping at Olympics

Establishing a genetic baseline for every professional athlete have long been cost-prohibitive.

olympics doping
Olympic Rings. (FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency has considered requiring all Olympic athletes to submit copies of their genetic code for years. It would be used as a check on so-called “gene-doping,” or the idea of changing the body’s biological machinery to make it stronger, faster, or recover more quickly. The genetic code would reveal any performance-boosting tweaks. Establishing a genetic baseline for every professional athlete has been cost-prohibitive though, even more so if it calls for a full genome sequence. But now, the proposal is being seriously discussed for the first time today at WADA’s headquarters in Montreal. According to Wired, as the cost of sequencing a person’s entire genome drops to only a couple hundred dollars, the agency could implement the plan within the next few years.

“It will be easy in the future to have full genome sequencing for a reasonable amount of money,” said Olivier Rabin, WADA’s science director, according to Wired. “It will be reasonable to have full genome sequencing with some very strong ethical guidelines.”

Genetic sequencing would add to what sports authorities call the “biological passport.” It is a way to monitor various indicators of an athlete’s blood, hormones and body chemistry over time. It would be easy to spot changes that indicate cheating, even if the athlete passes drug tests.

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