Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday January 29th, 7:30pm at The Railway Club.  Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Jim Rupert, an associate professor from the kinesiology department at UBC.  He specializes in the genetics and genomics of exercise, human adaptation to altitude and the genetics of altitude-related illnesses, and genetic approaches to “doping” control.  The details of his talk are as follows:

The use of Genetics in Doping and in Doping Control

Sports performance is an outcome of the complex interactions between an athlete’s genes and the environment(s) in which he or she develops and competes.  As more is learned about the contribution of genetics to athletic ability, concerns have been raised that unscrupulous athletes will attempt to manipulate their DNA in an attempt to get an ‘edge‘ over the competition. The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) has invested research funds to evaluate this possibility and to support studies into methods to detect so-called “gene doping”.  Superimposed on these concerns is the realisation that, in addition to contributing to performance, an athlete’s genes may influence the results of current doping-control tests. Natural genetic variation is an issue that anti-doping authorities must address as more is learned about the interaction between genotype and the responses to prohibited practices. To help differentiate between naturally occurring deviations in blood and urine ‘markers’ and those potentially caused by doping, the ‘biological-passport’ program uses intra-individual variability rather than population values to establish an athlete’s parameters.  The next step in ‘personalised’ doping-control may be the inclusion of genetic data; however, while this may benefit ‘clean’ athletes, it will do so at the expense of risks to privacy.  In this talk, he will describe some examples of the intersection of genetics and doping-control, and discuss how genetic technology might be used to both enhance physical performance as well as to detect athletes attempting to do so.


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