Genetic engineering in sport
A gene doping scandal is unlikely at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, say Richard Brixey and David Gould, but what of London 2012?
Imagine this: at the Olympic games in London in 2012, a little known athlete surprises everyone in the men's 100 metres, thrashing the established favourite by almost a whole second. “Is he on drugs?” everyone asks. Tests find nothing, and he is labelled a freak of nature. But are his achievements thanks to natural ability or are they down to genetic modification?
In our darkest memories, we can all recall having lied, cheated, or stretched the rules, often to gain a personal advantage. For elite athletes the pressures that drive cheating are vastly increased. Sport requires that participants train hard over long periods, often from a young age, linking achievement to self esteem, emotional state, and lifestyle. The temptations of money and fame and pressure from parents, coaches, and fans drive athletes to accept extreme risk to gain even small advantages.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that some athletes turn to