Friday, 14 February 2014

Uzbekistan apply genetic testing to select for future olympians

Strange, but true!
According to this news reported by The Atlantic, beginning in 2015, Uzbekistan will incorporate genetic testing into its search for Olympic athletes.

Rustam Muhamedov and his colleagues from Uzbekistan's Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry's genetics laboratory are working on developing a set of 50 genes to determine what sport a child is best suited for. So the national trainers would start working on high predisposed children and know exactly which sport is more suited to their physical characteristics.

"Developed countries throughout the world like the United States, China, and European countries are researching the human genome and have discovered genes that define a propensity for specific sports," Muhamedov tells the Atlantic. "We want to use these methods in order to help select our future champions."
The program, overseen by Uzbekistan's Academy of Sciences, would be "implemented in practice" in early 2015 in cooperation with the National Olympic Committee and several of the country's national sports federations—including soccer, swimming, and rowing.

By now there is no explicit ban against genetic testing or genetic selection on athletes, even if
the World Anti-Doping Agency discourages such practices. In the past, there was suspicions that also China government had applied some sort of genetic testing or at least encouraged marriage and pregnancy between people with desired predisposition with the aim to generate better athletes (see the Yao Ming story as example).

Many experts doubt that genetic testing could really improve performance more than an excellent training program, given that the genotype-phenotype correlation on many physiological traits relevant for sportsmen is not yet explored nor fully understood.
The explicit use of genetic testing however pose some ethical question and claim for an official rule on its application in sport practice.

We'll see if the Uzbekistan effort will push the country at the top of olympic ranking! 

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