Deporte, ética y derecho


In Octubre, estare hablar sobre deporte, ética y derecho en Barcelona por el Universidad Pomeu Fabra. Es un conferencia en la escula de derecho y abajo tiene la programa. Within my talk, I will weave in themes about democracy, freedom and the good life…

Gene Doping

Photo Credit: University of Utah, 2002

This new volume published by the International Olympic Committee concludes with a chapter I have written titled ‘Bioethical Concerns in a Culture of Human Enhancement’. There are some publications that have special meaning and this is one of them. The book is the IOC’s XVII volume of their highly prestigious ‘Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine’. This volume may be regarded as the definitive book on the use of genetic technology in sports and my chapter is one of four that focus on social and ethical issues.

Given my views on doping, it feels like a privilege to be published here and reason for optimism that the world is a more open place than one may otherwise assume. The editors are Claude Bouchard and Eric P. Hoffman, the latter of whom I met in relation to a Hastings Centre and WADA project back in 2005.

Here’s an excerpt from the Conclusion:

“The ethics of performance enhancement in sport are operationalized through WADA as a principle of “strict liability”, which deems that any positive anti-doping test means immediate suspension pending an inquiry. Yet, there are many biotechnological modifications that the sports world does not address, such as functional elective surgery. To this extent, questions remain about how genetic and molecular modifications or knowledge should be treated in the long term. Arguably, as humanity’s continued pursuit of health progresses, it will become apparent that the use of such science implies seeking to alter those biological processes that are a part of the aging process, and our intervention ultimately will ensure a collapse of the distinction between therapy and enhancement. If societies accept such continued pursuit, then the attempts to maintain sport as an environment free from enhancement will not simply be impractical or undesirable, they would also contravene fundamental human rights.

To this end, as the sports world races ahead to criminalize doping practices and treat the widespread use of performance enhancement as a broad public health issue, it will need to consider the interface between the local, national and international policy debates. Arguably, the political history of sport in the post-war period ensured that genetic science would be treated as a questionable technology for sports, where gene doping would become an integral part of the war on drugs. Yet, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (2005) noted, young people are not using steroids just for competitive sport. Rather, there is a broad culture of enhancement that underpins the use of technology. In time, genetic modification may become a part of this culture, though its integration within society will emerge first through applications that are medically justified and sports have yet to resolve how they will address the genetically modified athlete that society deems to be medically permissible.” (pp. 390-391)

Miah, A. (2011) Bioethical Concerns in a Culture of Human Enhancement In Bouchard, C. & Hoffman, E. Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine, Genetic and Molecular Aspects of Sport Performance. Lausanne, International Olympic Committee, pp. 383-392.


April 30th, 2011

The DREAM Gene

Miah, A. (2010) The DREAM Gene for the Posthuman Athlete: Reducing Exercise-Induced Pain Sensations Using Gene Transfer. In Sands, R.R. & Sands, L. The Anthropology of Sport and Human Movement: A Bicultural Perspective, Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland, pp.327-341.

Here’s the book’s blurb:

The evolution of the human species has always been closely tied to the relationship between biology and culture, and the human condition is rooted in this fascinating intersection. Sport, games, and competition serve as a nexus for humanity’s innate fixation on movement and social activity, and these activities have served throughout history to encourage the proliferation of human culture for any number of exclusive or inclusive motivations: money, fame, health, spirituality, or social and cultural solidarity. The study of anthropology, as presented in Anthropology of Sport and Human Movement, provides a scope that offers a critical and discerning perspective on the complex calculus involving human biological and cultural variation that produces human movement and performance. Each chapter of this compelling collection resonates with the theme of a tightly woven relationship of biology and culture, of evolutionary implications and contemporary biological and cultural expression.

and my abstract:

Downstream Regulatory Element Antagonistic Modulator, or DREAM for short, is a protein critical to pain sensations experienced by organisms. Recent research has suggested that this genetic origin to pain might be possible to exploit for the purpose of pain management (Cheng et al., 2002; Cheng and Penninger, 2003). This paper discusses the ethical implications of DREAM for sport to advance the debate on what constitutes a legitimate method of performance modification. Initially, it is argued that DREAM presents a more complex problem for anti-doping authorities than other methods of gene doping, since it cannot easily be characterized as enhancing or therapeutic. Indeed, the basis of this distinction is criticized by exploring a biocultural definition of health. On this model, which seems unlikely to be endorsed by anti-doping authorities, but, nevertheless, which is perpetuated by sport physicians, the use of DREAM would seem more difficult to prohibit on medical grounds. Its use is consistent with a medical desire to alleviate suffering, even where it is self-induced. A similar dichotomy exists when discussing the relevance of pain from a sporting perspective. While one might presume that the ethics of sport is such that any legal mechanism to improve performance is desirable for an athlete, pain tolerance appears to have a symbolic value that would undermine the usefulness of DREAM. This tension demonstrates greater complexity to the debate about the role of technology in sport and its ideological connotations about what it means to be an athlete.

October 21st, 2010

Arte (Switzerland)

On 30 July, I’ll be one of a number of commentators in a documentary to be screened on the TV channel Arte. The film is about gene doping and is directed by Beat Glogger, an awesome character living in Switzerland. He and I had hoped to work together a few years ago, but it was not to be. The film pulls together a number of views about the likely use of gene transfer in elite sport.

Earlier in the year, Beat came over to Liverpool to film with me at FACT. Beat has known my work for a number of years – he tried to involve me on a WADA publication and met obstacles to my involvement (format, rather than politics I think). Still, my views do not sit well with the World Anti-Doping Agency, although they should.

Our discussions centred on why I think that gene doping would be a good thing for sport and how a culture of ethical performance enhancement would, overall, benefit elite sports industries and bring more credibility to a cultural practice that is harmed by the ongoing uncertainty about what athletes are doing. I look forward to seeing the documentary.

Read more:

Miah, A. (2004) Genetically Modified Athletes: Biomedical Ethics, Gene doping & Sport (Routledge)

also translated into Portuguese by Brazillian publisher, Phorte (‘Atletas Modificados Geneticamente, 2008)

Here’s a reference to a piece I published in the Washington Post in 2008, to give you a snapshot of my views.

And here’s a brief about the film:

Nach zahlreichen Fachartikeln und dem Science-Thriller “Lauf um mein Leben” folgt Beat Gloggers nächstes Werk zum Thema Gendoping. Sein Dokumentarfilm zeigt, was Gendoping ist und warum sich Dopingbekämpfer davor so fürchten.
Und: er zeigt, das Genmanipulation am Menschen nicht nur ein Problem des Sports ist, sondern der gesamten Gesellschaft.

July 24th, 2010

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