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No evidence for gene doping at Games but worry remains
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Gene doping may not be present at the ongoing Beijing Olympic Games but anti-doping experts remain worried that illegal use of gene therapy.

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), voiced his concerns over illegal practices in this area on Sunday.

"We worry about unfair practices. My concern is somebody is trying to do it without having it properly, medically verified and ethically confirmed. It is like manufacturing drugs without under proper scrutiny," he said. He was here to oversee the anti-doping program at the Games which opened on Friday.

WADA plays the role of independent observer for the program and carry out about 1,000 of the 4,500 tests during the Games. It also set up an anti-doping outreach program for athletes in the Olympic Village.

"We are doing a lot of work in gene therapy because we want it to be in place for the good public health reasons. What we worry about is being abused by those want to cheat. It should not be abused by athletes," said Howman.

At this point, WADA doesn't believe gene doping is present.

"No evidence, nothing is coming forward to suggest that gene doping is going on," said WADA president John Fahey. "No gene doping is occurring a this point of time."

WADA has held three gene doping symposiums with experts, scientists, ethicists, athletes, and representatives from the Olympic Movement and governments studying the issue. The third symposium was held in Saint Petersburg in June this year.

Fahey said all participants of the symposiums agreed that more research should be done.

"There is a recognition that there must be sufficient research to find the detection process in advance because it is a concern it may become something in the lexicon of doping in the days ahead," said the Australian.

WADA has been conducting 22 projects on developing a system for detecting gene doping. Howman said combined efforts were needed to combat the problem.

"We do a lot of research and we would like to do more but we haven't got a lot of money, so we rely on other countries and research bodies to help us with it," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2008)

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