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Gene Editing for the Gold

In the not-too-distant future, gene editing could be an issue competitive sports need to address, four researchers from Arizona State University write at Slate.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has added CRISPR to its list of banned substances, but the quartet notes that the agency assumed that the athletes would be the ones seeking to make gene edits and that that may not be the case, as germline gene editing is increasingly pursued. This, they say, could mean that the alterations are made before the athlete ties her shoes or picks up a ball.

As the researchers note at Slate, it also raises worries about how parents or national sporting agencies pursue such gene changes. Athletic prowess is not governed by a single gene and tweaks would like have to be made to many genes, the effects of which are not yet known.

The authors call on WADA, the World Health Organization, and UNESCO to develop rules for gene editing, including athletes. "Without this deliberative debate and norm setting, we collectively run the risk of turning a blind eye to the use of a technology that, if not implemented responsibly, could lead to a legacy of destroyed lives," they write.