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Finding the golden genes

Advances in gene therapy could tempt some athletes to enhance their genetic makeup, leading some researchers to work on detection methods just in case.

11:15am, August 13, 2008

Click here to see an animation of how one gene therapy can enhance endurance.

This month — 8/8/08, to be precise — the curtain rose on what many experts believe could prove to be the first genetically modified Olympics.

For the unscrupulous or overdriven Olympic athlete, the banned practice of “doping” by taking hormones or other drugs to enhance athletic prowess may seem so last century. The next thing in doping is more profound and more dangerous. It’s called gene doping: permanently inserting strength- or endurance-boosting genes into DNA.

“Once you put that gene in, it’s there for the rest of that person’s life,” says Larry Bowers, a clinical chemist at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in Colorado Springs, Colo. “You can’t go ba

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