In the news: Simon Eassom

August 13, 2004

Concern that "gene doping" will be used by athletes to enhance their performance in the Olympic Games has been officially recognised, thanks to Simon Eassom, head of De Montfort University's School of Physical Education and Sport Sciences.

Sportsmen and women may already be using gene-therapy treatments, originally designed to help people with disorders such as muscle-wasting diseases, to build abnormally large muscles giving them "superhuman" capabilities, according to Mr Eassom, an expert on the moral and political issues surrounding drug use in sport.

The extent of this practice and how it is likely to affect future Olympic and other sporting events was discussed last weekend in a symposium organised by Mr Eassom at the pre-Olympic Scientific Congress in Thessalonika, Greece - the largest sports science conference in the world.

He said the symposium was a significant step towards getting the issue considered by the International Olympic Committee, which banned "gene doping" without any evidence to judge its impact on sport.

He believed that current public opinion was behind the IOC's failure to consider the issue until now. "It is worried that people would not support the games if they thought the medals were being won by science fiction-style freaks," he said.

But he said that by the 2012 Olympics, "gene therapy may be more commonplace and accepted. Are we going to say that someone who has undergone gene therapy to treat a condition, and has benefited from enhanced performance as an athlete as a result, cannot take part in the Olympics?"

Mr Eassom underwent teacher training at Warwick University followed by a Masters degree in philosophy at the University of Alberta, Canada. He spent four years as a PE teacher in Coventry before joining De Montfort 17 years ago. He is writing a book exploring the tension between futuristic and idealistic human identity, called Cyborg Sport - Primate Play .

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