Some pundits are saying the Olympian age may soon be over. And it’s not just the increasing risk of terrorist attack and general security problems, as highlighted by recent events surrounding the 2012 London Olympics.
The Rise of ‘Gene-Doped’ Super-Athletes?
While there’s no question that Olympic athletes earn their results with extraordinary levels of hard work, according to Nature Journal there’s also increasing evidence that these elite athletes possess a pre-requisite cocktail of performance-boosting genes.
And as geneticists learn more and more about the specific that help athletes become record-breaking sprinters or world class swimmers, Nature Journal claims that the belief that medals are purely the result of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ may begin to be challenged.
The astounding recent performance of Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen has already led to accusations of illicit Chinese gene-doping.
Rare Genes Result in Unfair Advantage
While many of the genes that give athletic advantage are common, there’s also some very rare genes that will lend some people huge advantages over their competitors.
Which raise the obvious question: as awareness of specific genes and their functions grow, will the obvious response for sports be divisions based on genes? Or will sportspeople be assigned ‘handicaps’ calculated from their putative genetic advantage?
And as the prevalence of gene therapies for a variety of conditions increase, this raises even further ethical dilemmas. What if a gene is discovered that increases both longevity and artificial improves certain forms of athletic performance? Under current International Olympic Committee regulations, such individuals would be banned from participating. Does that mean that athletes should be denied these sorts of hugely beneficial treatments for the sake of their careers?
What do you think? Does the rise of genetics really spell the end of the Olympic age? Or will it just result in new divisions, based on supposed genetic ability?