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WADA raises concern about potential for gene doping

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The World Anti-Doping Agency wants to stay ahead of the game on gene doping.

Although there's no hard evidence that athletes are doing it, WADA is concerned about the potential for gene doping -- the illegal use of gene therapy, which typically alters a person's DNA to fight diseases -- to enhance performance.

The agency used a conference on the issue to call on the worlds of sports and science to work together to raise awareness of the issue -- and find ways to catch and punish anyone involved.

WADA vice president Arne Ljungqvist said scientists working on gene therapy are being approached by sports figures interested in performance enhancement.

"We need to make sure that athletes know the dangers associated with these technologies and, for those who may choose to ignore them and cheat, that they will be caught," Ljungqvist said.

It was unclear when that will be possible.

Theodore Friedmann, a gene therapy expert professor who leads the WADA gene doping panel, said "detection methods are early in their development."

But Ljungqvist said WADA's conducting 22 projects on developing a system for detecting gene doping.

Authorities have the power to store doping samples taken during competition for up to eight years and use new testing methods when they become available.