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Gene Doping

Will athletes go for the ultimate high?

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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