Experts think gene doping not yet in existence

Beijing, June 5 (IANS) Scientific experts and representatives from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Wednesday met here to review the progress in combatting gene and cell doping.

Two of the experts, one in anti-doping area and another in gene therapy, believed that gene doping may not exist right now but the threat looms, reports Xinhua.

"Gene therapy is still in a very early stage, which makes me believe that there should not be athletes gene doping. But WADA is right to prepare a test as gene therapy is developing so fast that this sort of doping is a potential threat," said Beijing anti-doping lab head Xu Youxuan.

More than 70 experts, both home and abroad, attended the June 5-6 Gene and Cell Doping Symposium to discuss recent findings and solutions to combat the threat of athletes manipulating their genes to enhance their sports performance.

The symposium was organised by WADA in conjunction with China Anti-Doping Agency and Beijing Olympic City Development Association.

A difference from previous three meetings in New York in 2002, Stockholm in 2005 and St. Petersburg in 2008 is that discussion on cell doping became one of the meeting's agenda.

Beijing You'an Hospital chief Li Ning considered cell doping a more realistic threat than gene doping.

"The science for cell doping is less complicated than gene doping," said Li, taking blood transfusion as an example.

"After blood cells are tampered outside an athlete's body, the blood can have increased red blood cells and be transferred back to the body which is liking using EPO for an athlete," he said.

"As for gene doping, I believe it does not exist now but will appear in a near future," he added. Li heads a research project on the cutting-edge gene therapy to cure cancer. His research group has discovered the ADV-TK virus that can stop cancer cells from reproducing.

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