Chasing a Moving Target: Has Anti-Doping Failed?

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) continues to be in the news recently regarding allegations of widespread doping and subsequent cover-ups. While reading all this coverage, it reminded me of an essay I wrote for my law Masters discussing the premise that doping (and, further in the future, genetic enhancement) was a natural progression of sport and therefore a positive thing. I’ve re-written and expanded on portions here to make it a little more readable. Let the debate commence!


Bleeding edge science often finds itself chasing a moving target. For example, in 1997, chess was seen as the epitome of human intelligence yet as soon Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, many were quick to extoll the differences between intuition and algorithms and the beauty of the mind’s expertise with the brute force of assessing 200 million chess moves a second.[1] Just as Deep Blue generated discussions on the definitions of “true” intelligence, humanity and many peripheral philosophical discussions, the massive advances in pharmaceutical sciences and, more recently, genetic therapies have opened a similar frontier in athletics —with one key difference.

Artificial intelligence is just that: artificial. Doping and genetic therapies are about “improving” humans and our own abilities to perform and push those boundaries. So while as a society, humans ordinarily embrace and celebrate our technological advances, recent years they have started to impinge on what it means to actually be human. However, ever since humans have competed in sporting and athletic events, they have tried all means available to them to achieve their best possible results.

As such, when Julian Savulescu, Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, argued that “[g]enetic enhancement is not against the spirit of sport; it is the spirit of sport” it was guaranteed to divide opinions. So, was he right? Continue reading “Chasing a Moving Target: Has Anti-Doping Failed?”

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This is How I’m Going to Die: Consumer Genetics and Our Access to Knowledge

Over the last decade, the price of genome sequencing has plummeted, leading to the rise of direct-to-consumer personal genomic testing (DTC PGT). The greater accessibility to this genetic information has led to increasing concerns about the validity of this data, the economic burden it could place on the medical and insurance industries and the psychological impact it could have on those unfamiliar with this new information.

Additionally, as PGT becomes more prevalent, so too will the vast quantity of valuable data that these services generate. This has created fears around privacy and the use of personal genomic data in academic research, insurance premium calculations and their effect on existing legislation. All these concerns have led to a rise in calls to increase the regulation that governs the industry.

While there are many valid concerns with DTC PGT, particularly with respect to the quality and efficacy of the information these commoditised services offer, there are also real fears that over-regulation could stifle innovation and prevent consumers access to their own personal genetic data. This paper aims to show that despite the trepidation with DTC PGT, tighter regulation that limits individuals’ access to the information is not the answer. Instead, legislation should focus on the quality, reporting and oversight of the information presented to the consumer, as well as addressing privacy concerns. Continue reading “This is How I’m Going to Die: Consumer Genetics and Our Access to Knowledge”

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