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11 June 2001, 02:46 pm
IOC to Investigate 'Gene Therapy'
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Olympic chiefs plan to investigate gene therapy abuse by athletes in a bid to prevent so-called 'gene-doping' from becoming as big a menace to sport as traditional doping.
Representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s medical commission met with scientists to discuss the future impact of the highly controversial therapy.
They said possible abuse by athletes was at least three years down the road.

'Currently there are no gene therapy medicines approved worldwide for any human use... Approval will come within the next three to five years,' said Edward Baetge, a genetic expert who coordinated the meeting.

The technique (still in the experimental stage) is designed to treat, cure or prevent disease. But authorities fear some people will try to use gene therapy to secure a competitive edge on the playing field.

But the IOC knows it has to act now if it wants to stop abuse before it starts. 'We are aware that there is the potential for abuse of gene therapy medicines and we will begin to establish procedures and state of the art testing methods for identifying athletes who might misuse such technology,' Baetge said.

Among the procedures under consideration to ferret out genetic cheats is the detection of antigens -- or the presence of antibodies generated in the blood as a result of gene therapy use. Other methods include scanning and analyzing footprints of genes, or protein in blood and saliva.
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