Although gene doping is not a common phenomenon yet, the British Horseracing Authority is determined to keep ahead of the game and make sure it cannot become a threat. It is based on gene manipulation science and is potentially a way to cheat the system. Until now horses are bred purely on lineage, the quality of the parents, who are explicitly selected to produce a new horse with the traits of both, in an attempt to create the best, which is the acceptable approach. Manipulating genes is something the BHA is determined to block and ensure never comes into the sport as freetips.com reports.
Being overly cautious the authority is acting now before the threat becomes real. The BHA Director of Equine Health and Welfare David Sykes explained the dangers at a press conference last week.“This is a new technology that is unravelling all the time. None of us here think that there has probably been a previous incidence of it, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be looking forward into the next five or 10 years and at least being able to identify if it is going to occur. For example, you could send in material which would alter the EPO [erythropoietin] receptor site, to allow an animal to produce increased levels of EPO naturally [and increase the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity]. That could be expanded to anything else. For example, you could target muscle mass and increasing it, or at some point talk about circulatory systems, increasing blood supply or even cardiac muscle size by genetically altering the DNA sequence.”
It is potentially scary to think that something we talked about as a crumb of an idea just a decade ago is now a real and probable threat so you can see why they are keen to make sure it cannot become an actual event. Although the BHA is eager to reassure people that they do not consider it a concern at this time, the technologies are developing so fast that they, along with other countries are taking action now.
This means that they have added one million pounds to the international campaign pot, to help ensure that there is no gene doping allowed into the sport as it would destroy everything that has been worked for. The commitment is unwavering and something welcomed by most people in the industry with BHA Chief Regulatory Officer Brant Dunshea also adding to the official line from the company and indeed the industry on a global scale.“Late last year we were in discussion with our laboratories, who said that we need to be part of an international collaboration on gene doping to ensure that we are not globally duplicating work. Across six or seven countries, we are all working together to do various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on gene doping. There’s no specific evidence that we’re aware of in relation to there being genetic manipulation that’s happening, but we haven’t done the research yet to be able to develop the techniques to be able to monitor it, so that’s what this research is all about.