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Outside the Lines

The Athlete of the 21st Century

Science to give the human body a makeover

Genetics: Finding the right stuff

Rehab: Knees made easy

Bionics: Calling Steve Austin

Next 100 years: The future is in your hands


Audio chat wrap: Princeton geneticist Lee Silver and Oakland A's strength coach Bob Alejo

Chat wrap: Gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi

This five-day online series is a companion to the ESPN Outside the Lines television special that originally aired Jan. 14.

Tuesday, June 3
Coaches: Bring it on
By Tom Farrey

How common is the sentiment expressed by Hartmut Buschbacher, former East German rower and now coach of the U.S. national women's team, that genetic testing is valuable? asked several members of, a web site in which the general public can get advice from strength and conditioning coaches of professional sports teams, for their thoughts on whether they would use genetic profiling of athletes.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose was a vital cog in the Big Red Machine.
Below are excerpts of their e-mail responses:

Mike Barnes, San Francisco 49ers: "To me the answer is obvious, yes. Any ethical principal that I can use to make an athlete better perform I will use. Technology, in this case genetic technology, is not waiting for anyone. Knowledge expands at an exponential rate and professionals in any field have a responsibility to continually educate themselves."

Bob Alejo, Oakland A's: "I think genetic testing might be a bit too much. The fact is, there are plenty of tests which will be able to reveal an athletes likelihood to be best suited for power, endurance, strength and speed. Field tests, weight room feats, bike or treadmill tests and even muscle biopsies are applicable and somewhat reliable tests.

"The most useful time to administer these tests is when the athlete is young. Gathering information over those formative years will then give a tremendous baseline and a hell of an idea about which sport the athlete is best suited for. I am sure you must know the status of National Youth Sports camps for feeding the Olympic or national teams -- little or no funding for these type of projects.

"At the professional level and even in the college ranks, athletes are already successful and in an exclusive and elite group. A genetic test would be unnecessary based on the fact that the athlete must have already, involuntarily or voluntarily, optimized his potential to get where he or she is."

Gene Coleman, Houston Astros: "Genetics sets the upper limit. How you train, eat, rest, etc., determines how close you get to achieving your genetic potential. I'm sure that there are (Major League Baseball) players who would be willing to agree to the test, and I would be willing to see what science has to suggest.

"However, it must be noted that genetics is not the sole predictor of success. Pete Rose, for example, probably wouldn't score too well on physical attributes. He was relatively small and not very strong by today's standards. He did, however, have a lot of intangibles that probably wouldn't show up on a genetic test. I don't know that there is a gene for hard work, dedication, persistence and enthusiasm.

"I guess my answer is yes, I would like to see what science has to offer. However, I would not be willing to put all my eggs in the gene basket."

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