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Gene Doping – The Future of Doping?

Teaching Unit – Gene Doping in Competitive Sports

Swen Körner, Stefanie Schardien, Birte Steven-Vitense, Steffen Albach and Edgar Dorn

Gene doping is regarded as the form of performance enhancement in elite sports with the greatest potential which also raises issues for all of society that transcend competitive sport. This book brings together detailed concepts for lessons dealing with the scientific, legal, ethical, and social aspects of gene doping. The lessons have been applied in class and extensively annotated for classroom use. Upper secondary level students may choose out of various options which will refine and expand their subject expertise as well as their methodology, decision-making and responsibility in accordance with their subject focus, interdisciplinary approach, and curricular objectives.


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Gene doping is a promise. For one thing, it cannot deliver on what it purports to do: according to the experts, experimenting with or using it on the athlete’s body to deliberately trigger and control moleculogenetic regulatory mechanisms is a bridge too far as things stand now. To date, there has not been a single doc- umented instance of gene doping, and the development of relevant detection methods is still in its infancy. But we also need to draw a distinction between this not yet and a fundamental not. While the former is merely a problem of techno- logical development, hence only a question of time, the fundamental not is about the moral-ethical reasons why we may not or should not do what is technically feasible. We have learned from the rapid progress in the field of biomedicine over the last seven decades that questions of social acceptance are decided in the light of historically co-evolving norms. How a fundamental not can turn into a funda- mental shall can be seen on the example of how we progressed from rescinding prohibitions in the area of generative reproduction to legalizing induced abor- tions in 1976 to qualified approval of preimplantation genetic diagnosis in 2011. The power of embedded norms to stymie technological leaps, however, also can hardly be overestimated if for no other reason than modern societies are at pains to control side effects from their medico-scientific advances. Time and again, technologies from medicine, pharmacology, or the military spill over into...

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