Skip to main content

Genetic Enhancement in Sports: The Role of Reason and Private Rationalities in the Public Arena


Reviews of philosophical books run the risk of being either excessively and unconstructively critical or superficially praiseworthy. To avoid both these risks, we test the approach outlined by Häyry in his book Rationality and the Genetic Challenge: Making People Better? by applying it to an eighth genetic challenge, namely, a variation of the genetic enhancement challenge discussed by Häyry as it applies to sports. We assess whether genetic enhancement in sports should be conceived as an eighth wonder or an eighth cardinal sin that stems from the interaction between genetics and society, question whether Häyry’s nonconfrontational approach is really useful for dealing with these issues, and discuss how his method can be improved.

Hide All

1. Häyry, M.Rationality and the Genetic Challenge: Making People Better? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2010:2. Our italics.

2. Coggon, J.Confrontations in “genethics”: Rationalities, challenges, and methodological responses. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2011;20(1):46–55.

3. Harris, J.The challenge of nonconfrontational ethics. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, this issue, 204–215.

4. See note 1, Häyry 2010:238.

5. See note 1, Häyry 2010:43.

6. See note 1, Häyry 2010:50.

7. See note 1, Häyry 2010:238.

8. See note 1, Häyry 2010:239.

9. For such a discussion, see also Savulescu J. Doping true to the spirit of sport. The Sydney Morning Herald 2007 Aug 8, available at (last accessed 20 Aug 2010); Tamburrini C. Are doping sanctions justified? A moral relativistic view. Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics 2006;9(2):199–211; available at (last accessed 22 Aug 2010).

10. For such an argument, see, for example, Miah, A. Why not dope? It’s still about the health. In: Genetically Modified Athletes: Biomedical Ethics, Gene Doping and Sport. London: Routledge; 2004:12–31.

11. World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). World Anti-Doping Code 2009, available at (last accessed 20 Aug 2010).

12. For a discussion on the weakness of the treatment/enhancement distinction, see Harris, J.Enhancing Evolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2007.

13. See note 11, WADA 2009:14. Our italics.

14. See note 10, Miah 2004.

15. See note 11, WADA 2009:8

16. Kass, L, ed. Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. Washington, DC: The President’s Council on Bioethics; 2003.

17. For a review of possible gene enhancement methods, see Wells, DJ. Gene doping: The hype and the reality. British Journal of Pharmacology 2008;154:623–31; Wells, DJ. Gene doping: Possibilities and practicalities. Medicine and Sport Science 2009;54:166–75.

18. See note 16, Kass 2003:124.

19. See note 16, Kass 2003:127.

20. Consider, for example, Oscar Pistorius’s case and the surrounding ethical debate on disability and superability, Camporesi, S.Oscar Pistorius, enhancement and post-humans. Journal of Medical Ethics 2008;34(9):639.

21. Kakuk, P.Gene concepts and genethics: Beyond exceptionalism. Science and Engineering Ethics 2008;14(3):357–75.

22. For an argument to this effect, see note 9, Savulescu 2007.

23. For such a discussion, see Murray, TH.Making sense of fairness in sports. Hastings Center Report 2010;40(2):13–5.

24. See note 3, Harris 2010.

25. See note 1, Häyry 2010:50.

26. See note 1, Häyry 2010:50.

27. See note 1, Häyry 2010:238

28. See note 2, Coggon 2010.

29. Gutmann, A, Thompson, D.Why Deliberative Democracy? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2004.

30. Farrelly, C.Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, reproductive freedom and deliberative democracy. The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2009;34:135–54.

31. See note 29, Gutmann, Thompson 2004:126.

32. See note 29, Gutmann, Thompson 2004:132.

33. For a discussion of the criteria of reason acceptability, see note 29, Gutmann, Thompson 2004:Chap. V.

34. Camporesi, S, Maugeri, P.Caster Semenya: Sport, categories and the creative role of ethics. Journal of Medical Ethics 2010;36(6):378–9.

35. See note 29, Gutmann, Thompson 2004:135.

Both authors contributed equally to this work.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed