In fact, there are some people who have mutations that turn them into natural athletes. For example, Finnish Nordic skier and 1964 Olympic gold medallist Eero Mäntyranta had unusually high amounts of red blood cells, and a boy born with a myostatin dysfunction has larger than normal weight-lifting capacities (Schuelke et al, 2004). However, if gene doping were to be banned, would such people still be allowed to compete in sports? “I don't see any reason why somebody with a myostatin mutation should be excluded from any kind of competition,” commented Se-Jin Lee, from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD, USA), one of the researchers who described the myostatin case.
If gene therapy becomes sufficiently safe to be used not only as a medical treatment but also for normal enhancement purposes, it will raise the question of whether gene doping should remain forbidden. There is already a grey zone of performance enhancements that are legally used in sports because they are accepted as standard medical treatments. Professional golfers, for example, have subjected themselves to laser eye surgery to enhance their vision. Although some feel that this amounts to doping, Michael Knorz, founder of the FreeVis LASIK Centre in Mannheim, Germany, commented that this does not, in his view, go against the spirit of sport: “Refractive surgery is detectable and does not need to be considered as [a] new form of doping. It simply replaces contact lenses. A perfectly normal eye with good vision cannot be enhanced.”