Ethical Considerations Behind Gene Doping

Significantly, there has been continued research in the field of medicine to handle the various health challenges that man has faced for a long period now. New research in genetics and genomics is now being used in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of diseases. However, study findings reveal that the new knowledge is being used illegally to bring about enhanced performance by human beings, especially athletes. While gene therapy has always been used legally to treat genetically related illnesses, gene doping has emerged as a threat to gene transfer technology. Gene doping can be defined as the process of using gene transfer technology by sportsmen and sportswomen to enhance their performance (Schneider & Friedmann, 2006). This has proved to be a looming crisis for the sporting world as far as sports integrity is concerned. Many questions have been asked as to whether gene doping should be viewed just like a form of therapy or otherwise be regarded as illegal (Tamburinni & Yesalis, 2005). But most importantly, ethical concerns about doping have always existed and many athletes have been barred from participating in sporting events or even have their medals reclaimed after being found to have won under the influence of drugs and other substances. Similarly, gene doping has received fierce criticisms from stakeholders. This essay seeks to discuss the ethical concerns behind gene doping concerning the need to uphold the integrity of the sporting world.

As much as researchers are concerned about the safety of gene doping, more experts are considering the ethical implications of this illegal gene transfer technology. The scientific venture of genetic modification and enhancement as well as its applications to the various social contexts demand the most candid consideration (Filipp, 2007). This is especially in the development of procedures and protocols that will guide and give limits on conducting experiments, tests and the eventual implementation process. These techniques, however, imply that the ethical considerations will greatly depend on the understanding and definition of humanity.

With the rate at which biotechnology is growing in mind, one would be convinced that very soon man will be able to not only treat the symptoms of diseases but also be able to attack and eliminate the root causes of diseases or other imperfections. This shows that there must be a clear framework of ethics, responsible foresight as well as transparent order of operation. This will help in drawing a clear line between legal therapy and other illegal practices. For instance, there must be a clear understanding of treating the debilitated muscles through gene therapy and the illegal enhancement of muscles through gene doping (Tamburinni & Yesalis, 2005). There is also an increasing need for the standardization of research and experimentation in the genetic domain. They should conform to the conventional requirements for any human research. The guidelines for conducting ethical research are provided by the Nuremberg and Helsinki codes. In a situation where the subject could not be in a position to give consent within the research framework, then the implication is that the subject could also not be able to give a knowledgeable approval (Schneider & Friedmann, 2006). Any consequent research would therefore be unethical. In fact, it is inherently unethical to carry out any experimentation on unsuspecting patients and individuals.

The new science of gene doping is exponentially developing and fortunately, the stakeholders in the sports industry have joined hands to counter the looming crisis (Schneider & Friedmann, 2006). This is informed by their duty to defend, uphold, and promote sporting integrity. Notably, they would not allow the recurrence of events of the late 1950s where steroids and other performance-enhancement techniques were used without the knowledge of sports authorities. As a precautionary measure, in 1999, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to create the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to keep watch of doping incidences in sport (Tamburinni & Yesalis, 2005). The initial definition of doping by WADA has recently been expanded to include genetic modification.

It is quite unfortunate that members of society can manipulate their genetic aspects through doping to emerge victorious in sports competitions (Filipp, 2007). Several other ethical considerations about doping have been identified. Resorting to gene doping in sports is regarded as outright cheating and results in unfairness. Conventionally, unfairness or cheating occurs if set rules are broken. Others argue that a given action remains to be unfair due to its inherent characteristics even if no rules on it exist. However, sport is controlled by clear rules and hence gene doping rules should be put in place to avoid any debates.

Furthermore, doping would be a perversion of sports. The beauty of sports lies in the struggle and the spirit of achievement through overcoming physical obstacles and limitations naturally (Schneider & Friedmann, 2006). Encouraging gene doping, therefore, would reduce sport into mere ‘biotechnological competition’. As a social construct, sport is controlled and guided by a set of rules that have been universally agreed upon. Therefore, opting to practice gene doping for the sake of personal gain at the expense of mutually agreed-upon guidelines will be a form of social abomination and should be condemned. Other ethical considerations will emerge as the field of biotechnology advances.

The essay has focused on the ethical considerations of gene doping as far as sport is concerned. The temptation to overlook the guidelines for conducting human research by the scientists as well as the unfairness that arises in competitions has been discussed. Going against the laid out norms of a given sport has also been identified as being significantly unethical. Precautionary measures by the sports administrators have been highlighted.


Filipp, F. (2007). Is science killing sports? Gene therapy and its possible abuse in doping. EMBO Reports, 8(5).

Schneider, A. J. & Friedmann, T. (2006). Gene modification in sports: the scientific understanding of genetically doped athletes. Elsevier Inc. Web.

Tamburinni, M. C. & Yesalis, C. (2005). Genetic doping and sport: are there ethical questions? Routledge.