Gene or cell doping is defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as "the non-therapeutic use of genes, genetic elements and/or cells that have the capacity to enhance athletic performance". New research in genetics and genomics will be used not only to diagnose and treat disease, but also to attempt to enhance human performance. In recent years, gene therapy has shown progress and positive results that have highlighted the potential misuse of this technology and the debate of 'gene doping'. Gene therapies developed for the treatment of diseases such as anaemia (the gene for erythropoietin), muscular dystrophy (the gene for insulin-like growth factor-1) and peripheral vascular diseases (the gene for vascular endothelial growth factor) are potential doping methods. With progress in gene technology, many other genes with this potential will be discovered. For this reason, it is important to develop timely legal regulations and to research the field of gene doping in order to develop methods of detection. To protect the health of athletes and to ensure equal competitive conditions, the International Olympic Committee, WADA and International Sports Federations have accepted performance-enhancing substances and methods as being doping, and have forbidden them. Nevertheless, the desire to win causes athletes to misuse these drugs and methods. This paper reviews the current status of gene doping and candidate performance enhancement genes, and also the use of gene therapy in sports medicine and ethics of genetic enhancement.
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