To what extent will the human genome project affect tomorrow's sport universe?

Are we on the verge of a new era ... The genetic revolution!

Topic inspiration

Gattaca (1997) (from 8:10 to 11:47)

Plot summary

Vincent is one of the last "natural" babies born into a sterile, genetically-enhanced world, where life expectancy and disease likelihood are ascertained at birth. Myopic and due to die at 30, he has no chance of a career in a society that now discriminates against your genes, instead of your gender, race or religion. Going underground, he assumes the identity of Jerome, crippled in an accident, and achieves prominence in the Gattaca Corporation, where he is selected for his lifelong desire: a manned mission to Saturn's 14th moon (titan).

Biotech revolution by Michio Kaku (BBC)

What is the Human genome project?

The Human Genome Initiative but later known as the Human Genome Project began in 1987 and was celebrated as complete in 2001.The scientific goal was to map the genes and sequence human DNA. Mapping would reveal the locus of genes in the human body's cells; sequencing would determine the order of the four base pairs—the A(adenine), T (thymine), G (guanine), and C (cytosine) nucleotides—that compose the DNA molecule. The primary motive was that which drives all basic science, namely, the need to know. The secondary motive was to identify the four thousand or so genes that were suspected to be responsible for inherited diseases and prepare the way for treatment through genetic therapy.

The ethics of HGP

At the outset, HGP scientists anticipated ethical and public policy concerns; they were acutely aware that their research would have an impact on society and were willing to share responsibility for it. They insisted that society learn to use genetic information only in beneficial ways; if necessary, the government should pass laws at both the federal and state levels to prevent invasions of privacy and discrimination on genetic grounds. Moral controversy broke out repeatedly during the near decade and a half of research.

Many religious and ethical issues eventually became public policy concerns. These are adumbrated below:

Genetic discrimination:

An anticipated and feared scenario took the following steps. As researchers identify and locate most if not all genes in the human genome that either condition or, in some cases, cause disease, the foreknowledge of an individual's genetic predisposition to expensive diseases could lead to loss of medical insurance and perhaps loss of employment opportunities. The genetic locus of many diseases have already been located and more knowledge is yet to come. When it comes, it may be accompanied by an inexpensive method for testing the genome of each individual to see if he or she has any genes for any diseases. Screening for all genetic diseases may become routine for newborns. A person's individual genome might become part of a data bank to which each person, as well as health care providers, would have future access. The advantage is clear: Medical care from birth to grave could be carefully planned to delay onset, appropriately treat, and perhaps even prevent or cure genetically-based diseases.

Some are seeking protection from discrimination by invoking the principles of confidentiality and privacy. They argue that genetic testing should be voluntary and that the information contained in one's genome be controlled by the patient. I believe the more society knows, the better the health care planning can be. In the long run, what society needs is information without discrimination. The only way to obtain this is to restructure the employment-insurance-health care relationship.

The Abortion controversy:

Fears arise over possible genetic discrimination in the womb or even prior to the womb in the petri dish. Techniques have been developed to examine in vitro fertilized (IVF) eggs as early as the fourth cell division in order to identify so-called defective genes, such as the chromosomal structure of Down syndrome. Prospective parents may soon routinely fertilize a dozen or so eggs in the laboratory, screen for the preferred genetic make up, implant the desired zygote or zygotes, and discard the rest just like in the movie Gattaca. What will be the status of the discarded embryos? Might they be considered abortions? By what criteria does one define "defective" when considering the future of a human being?

The gene myth:

A cultural myth has grown up with media coverage of the Human Genome Project that assumes "it's all in the genes." DNA has emerged as a cultural icon, holding the "blueprint" for humanity or being thought of as the "essence" of what makes a person a person.

The gay gene:

Theological and ethical debate has arisen over the 1993 discovery of a possible genetic disposition to male homosexuality. Dean H. Hamer and his research team at the U.S. National Cancer Institute announced that they discovered evidence that male homosexuality—at least some male homosexuality—is genetic. According to that, inherited disposition to homosexual behavior is just like other innate dispositions such as lust or greed.

Beyond the question of guilt or innocence ethicists anticipate another issue, namely, the risk of stigma. Might the presence of the gay gene in an unborn fetus be considered a genetic defect and become grounds for abortion? Would routine genetic testing lead to a wholesale reduction of gay men in a manner parallel to that of children with Down Syndrome? Would this count as class discrimination?

Somatic therapy versus germline enhancement:

The debate over two distinctions—somatic versus germline intervention and therapy versus enhancement intervention—involves both secular and religious discussions. The term somatic therapy refers to the treatment of a disease in the body cells of a living individual by trying to repair an existing defect. The term germline therapy refers to intervention into the gametes, perhaps for the purpose of eliminating a gene such as that for cystic fibrosis so that it would not be passed along to future generations. Both somatic and germline therapies are conservative when compared to genetic enhancement. Enhancement goes beyond mere therapy for existing genes that may be a threat to health by selecting or adding genes to make an individual "superior" in some fashion. Enhancement might involve genetic engineering to increase bodily strength or intelligence or other socially desirable characteristics to give a person an edge over the other.

Ethical commentators almost universally agree that somatic therapy is morally desirable, and they look forward to the advances HGP will bring for expanding this important work. Yet they stop short of endorsing genetic selection and manipulation for the purposes of enhancing the quality of biological life for otherwise normal individuals or for the human race as a whole.

In a 1982 study, the World Council of Churches stated: "Somatic cell therapy may provide a good; however, other issues are raised if it also brings about a change in germline cells. The introduction of genes into the germline is a permanent alteration .…Nonetheless, changes in genes that avoid the occurrence of disease are not necessarily made illicit merely because those changes also alter the genetic inheritance of future generations .… There is no absolute distinction between eliminating defects and improving heredity" (quoted in Peters, ed., 1998, pp. 6–8).


Technically known as "somatic cell nuclear transfer," cloning techniques were developed in 1996 by Ian Wilmut at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland. In the worldwide controversy that broke out in 1997 and continues in bioethical discussion, the debate seems to bypass the science of nuclear transfer; rather, the focus is on producing multiple human beings with duplicate genomes. Critics of reproductive cloning argue that children produced by cloning would suffer from loss of individuality, identity, and dignity. Roman Catholic critics along with Wilmut himself oppose human reproductive cloning on the grounds of safety—that is, the imperfect technology would lead to the destruction of many early embryos. Defenders of nuclear transfer research distinguish sharply between reproductive cloning, which they oppose, and therapeutic cloning, which is necessary for stem cell research. I can't help but imagine if this technology falls in the wrong hands and one day we find a team of 11 players that are all clones of Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. It is a long shot but could eventually happen.

Messi's controversial use of genetic aid

When Messi was a young boy he was scouted by Argentine club River Plate. The club showed lots of interest in the boy but he was so physically frail and had a hormone deficiency which they found during testing. Because of the cost of "treatment", River Plate declined to sign him and soon Messi joined Barçelona and La Masia Academy where he received Human Growth Hormone and genetic modification that increased growing factors for a period of over four years. Yes, I understand that Messi was already showing brilliance before his treatment but I can't help but feel that he is a cheat for undergoing this genetic engineering which is unnatural. Without it he may never have become the player he is today.


Genetic manipulation, I think, will be a global problem that follows international sporting events worldwide. International sports federations, led by the International Olympic Committee, must attempt to stop the spread of this problem. It was expected that, with educational programs, testing, and supportive medical treatment, this behavior would decrease. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. In fact, new, more powerful and undetectable doping techniques, genetic interference and substances are now abused by professional athletes, while sophisticated networks of distribution have developed. Professional athletes are often the role models of adolescent and young adult populations, who often mimic their behaviors, including the abuse of drugs.

Modern sports and the media's misplaced fixation on fame, fortune and winning at all costs have unintentionally created a growing market for doping substances and I believe will do it too on genetic engineering. These substances, once only abused by elite athletes, are clearly spreading into our schools and health clubs worldwide. They are being accepted by a whole new generation of young customers who see reports daily in the newspapers of sports icons accused of abusing drugs only to continue playing, breaking records and claiming fortunes. These same performance-enhancing drugs are also abused by adolescents and weekend athletes and non-athletes who have wider behavioral and health risk problems. In addition, these drugs are now being abused by male and female adolescents for cosmetic purposes in an attempt to achieve the "cut" and sexy look promoted by the media. Continuing educational programs developed for these at-risk populations by national olympic organizations and athletic federations are important first steps to curb these dangerous behaviors.

The genetic revolution is here. Just as computer technology and the internet created whole new industries and extraordinary benefits for people that extend into almost every realm of human endeavor from education to transportation to medicine, genetics will undoubtedly, just as computer technologies, be a double sided blessing that will certainly benefit people everywhere in ways we can't even imagine, nevertheless, it could be the downfall of our future generations be it in sports or in everyday lives.

APA Citation

youtube videos:

Gattaca 1997 1080p full movie in English. (2015, May 25). Retrieved June 20, 2015, from

Biotech Revolution 5 of 6. (2011, January 23). Retrieved June 20, 2015, from


Biotech Revolution 5 of 6. (2011, January 23). Retrieved June 20, 2015


PETERS, TED. "Human Genome Project." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. 2003. 20 Jun. 2015

online books and papers:

atholic health association of the united states. human genetics: ethical issues in genetic testing, counseling, and therapy. st. louis, mo.: cha, 1990

chapman, audrey r. unprecedented choices: religious ethics at the frontiers of genetic science. minneapolis, minn.: fortress, 1999

cole-turner, ronald. the new genesis: theology and the genetic revolution. louisville, ky.: westminster john knox press, 1993.

cole-turner, ronald, ed. human cloning: religious responses. louisville, ky.: westminster john knox press, 1997.

cooke-deegan, robert. the gene wars: science, politics, and the human genome. new york: norton, 1996.

davies, kevin. cracking the genome: inside the race to unlock human dna. new york: free press, 2001

genome sequencing consortium. "initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome." nature 409 (2001): 860–921


BARON, D. A., MARTIN, D. M., & ABOL MAGD, S. (2007). Doping in sports and its spread to at-risk populations: an international review. World Psychiatry,6(2), 118–123.


Know your genome: What we can all gain from personal genetics. (2013, March 13). Retrieved June 20, 2015

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