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Gene Doping

Will athletes go for the ultimate high?

12:12pm, October 26, 2004

In 1998, the press jumped on H. Lee Sweeney's first study showing that gene therapy could enhance mouse muscle. Soon, the calls and e-mails started flowing in, first as a trickle, then as if from a fire hose. They're still coming, Sweeney says. Some people beg him to reverse their muscle degeneration caused by disease or aging. However, about half of the calls and e-mails come from healthy individuals—professional power lifters, sprinters, and weekend wannabe athletes of all stripes. They want bigger, higher-performing muscles. One caller offered $100,000 for muscle enhancement, and a high school football coach asked Sweeney to treat his whole team.

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