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Sports, doping types and genetics

Monday, September 6, 2021

Doping is one of the biggest threats to sports and athletes. The use of doping does not match sports and athlete morality, and causes prestige losses in the sports arena of clubs and countries. The main reasons that push athletes to use doping can be considered as the high goals and achievements expected from them, the ambition to win and anxiety for the future. This table can create pressure on athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Center (WADA) renews the list of banned substances used in sports every period and makes necessary warnings. Despite this, the use of banned substances that increase performance cannot be prevented. A substance that can be on the list of banned substances for a period can be removed from the list in other periods, or items that are not on the list can be added to the lists.

While this is the case, any drug that can be taken innocently can be described as the use of doping in individuals, while some athletes can refer to self-defense statements or actions such as ‘I did not know’ or ‘I did the following application, so the results were like this’.

What is Doping?

Different definitions are made for the term doping. In general, doping agents used in sports activities can be defined as an agent that improves the performance of athletes in an unnatural way. These substances can be chemical or biological substances.

Doping agents can be some chemical molecules or large molecules like hormones. However, after these molecules enter the body, they can be metabolized by the body and the new metabolites formed can easily be detected in body fluids such as blood, urine or saliva.

What is a blood doping?

Technological advances have allowed the development of doping analysis methods as well, but they have prepared the basis for the development of new doping methods. One of them is blood doping. In this application, the blood taken from the individual or someone else is then given back to the individual intravenously, thereby increasing the body’s VO2 max (maximum oxygen volume that can be transported) and / or the number of red blood cells (red blood cells). However, when transfusion is made from other individuals with these methods, various diseases or factors are also transferred to the individual. For this reason, “blood doping”, which is a very new and popular application, has come to the fore recently.

What is gene doping?

Gene therapy is a therapy that we have heard very recently. It was first applied successfully in 1990 in the treatment of an individual’s immune system-dependent disease called Ashanti DeSilva. Approximately 2000 trials have been carried out since then. However, since its success is still not at the desired level, this treatment can only be applied in certain diseases and with extensive permissions.

‘Gene doping’ is the general term for the transfer of genes, gene fragments or other molecules into cells and tissues to increase athletic performance. Especially the ambition to win and succeed is an illegal practice that is on the agenda of athletes and even coaches for reasons such as respectability, financial outputs and popularity in the national and international arena.

When gene doping came to the fore, viruses were the most effective structures used to transfer the genetic structure to individuals. Viruses are specialized structures in choosing a host. With genetic engineering applications, viral genes are removed and replaced with a defective (damaged – disrupted) or non-organism gene and the virus transmits that gene to the relevant tissue. Or cells carrying the transferred gene by transferring the cells to the cells in the cell cultures are transferred to the relevant tissues in the individuals. However, the biggest problem about this issue is that viruses do not only go to the desired address, but can also take the gene transferred to different tissues. The most striking example of this is the leukemia states that some patients also experienced in their first gene therapy trials.

After the related genes are transferred, they show their effects by synthesizing molecules that are unique to them in tissues or by regulating their own metabolism. However, the biggest danger in this regard is the extra burden of an external intervention on a system that is already in balance. And the harm that the cellular load can bring to the organism in this extreme can reach very different and undesirable dimensions over the years.

The concept of gene doping, which has been on the agenda in recent years, is an issue that sports scientists think about. However, transferring genes that increase this performance or any sporting activity to athletes is not as technologically as easy as in theory today. At the same time, applications for the diagnosis of gene doping, which can be performed in sportive activities, are being tested rapidly, and for the first time, gene doping can be screened, perhaps in the 2020 Olympics.

Instead of practices incompatible with this kind of sports and morality, we can now make individuals genetic analyzes and direct individuals to sportive activities according to their genetic structure. In addition to determining what kind of sports they can do with genetic tests or what kind of role they can play in sports activity, it is now possible for athletes to increase their success by developing personal training models. At the same time, nutritional programs that can be created according to their genetic structure can also support the development of individuals and support their success.

These practices will help prevent unwanted events such as sudden athlete’s deaths that may occur with the use of doping or excessive strain of the body as well as the success in sports. After the genetic profiles of the athletes are evaluated by the experts, individual work programs can be developed by sharing them with team trainers or coaches, which will enable the training of highly successful athletes in the long run.

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