June 6, 2013
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WADA Symposium on Gene and Cell Doping

WADA Symposium Covers Broad Spectrum of Gene Doping, and Potential for Misuse of Cell Therapy in World of Sport

Leading experts in gene therapy, scientists from the field of anti-doping, and sport ethicists joined WADA’s Gene Doping Panel at the Agency’s Fourth Gene and Cell Doping Symposium, held June 5-6 in Beijing to review recent achievements in the field and share the most promising approaches in doping detection under development.

Organized with the support of the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) and Beijing Olympic City Development Association (BODA), the Symposium attracted more than 70 international participants. Sixteen invited speakers included international experts who either study the latest advances in the field of gene therapy and gene doping detection methods, or are involved in related WADA-funded research projects.

The 2013 Symposium was the first to dedicate a formal session to cell therapy and doping.

“More recently, cell therapy has been a topic for discussion to determine if such therapy could be deviated to enhance an athlete’s performance,” said Prof. Arne Ljungqvist, WADA Vice President and Chair of WADA’s Health, Medical and Research Committee. “Recent cases where athletes have been treated with stem cells have heightened this issue.” The sessions covered the broader spectrum of gene doping and gene doping detection, considered among the most significant technical challenges in anti-doping for the past 10 years, and also a public health and societal problem.

“The boundaries between therapy and enhancement from both technical and ethical perspectives must be better defined,” added Prof. Ljungqvist. “With the growing potential of genetic cures for muscle diseases and blood disorders comes the growing threat of misuse by the world of sport.”

Fortunately, genes can also be used to develop new promising detection tools, which may revolutionize the current approach to anti-doping. The symposium explored the highly promising results of gene-based indirect detection methods that have the potential to detect doping by different classes of substances or methods.

Ethical and philosophical considerations of gene doping were also addressed at the Symposium.

“It is important that anti-doping considerations are connected to societal values,” Prof. Theodore Friedmann, Chair of WADA’s Gene and Cell Doping Panel said. “The Symposium offered the opportunity for the scientists to discuss the ethical and philosophical implications of scientific and medical anti-doping activities, particularly the impact of genetically-related doping on society.”

WADA devotes significant resources and attention to ways to detect and deter gene doping, and will continue to support key projects in this field to protect the integrity of sport and the health of athletes.

“The Symposium offered a platform for anti-doping researchers and thought leaders to meet and exchange. There is also a shared opportunity for local, regional and national members of the anti-doping community in China, including CHINADA and BODA, to participate as co-chairs, presenters, and active participants in the event’s many lively discussions,” said Mr. Zhao Jian, CHINADA Deputy Director General.

As ongoing event organizers, CHINADA and BODA further strengthen the foundation for future collaborations with WADA, and reinforce their commitment to push forward on advances in research supporting clean sport.

For more information: See WADA’s work in the area of gene doping.