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AIS warns against genetic testing for talent ID in children

Genetic Testing
'There are no scientific grounds for the use of genetic testing for athletic performance'.

02 Dec 2016

The AIS has warned against using online direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies to predict athletic ability and says children under the age of 18 should not be subject to genetic testing for sporting purposes at all.

In a position statement published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the AIS predicted genetic testing in sport and exercise medicine to become commonplace over the next decade because of reduced costs.

AIS Chief Medical Officer, Dr David Hughes, said it was important for the AIS to be proactive and lead an ethical approach to genetic testing and research in Australian sport.

Dr Hughes said the position statement was particularly important for children, with private online companies now starting to offer promises of athletic ‘predictions’ or talent identification.

“While genetic testing has proven value in clinical medicine, there are no scientific grounds for the use of genetic testing for athletic performance improvement, sport selection or talent identification,” Dr Hughes said.

“Private companies are already offering direct-to-customer tests, often without the involvement of medical practitioners or genetic counselling. Athletes and coaches should be discouraged from using this testing because of its lack of validation.

“This is of greatest concern for children. Aspiring athletes could be provided with inappropriate advice about their suitability for specific sporting activities and that could be detrimental to their physical and psychological health.

“We should not be putting limitations on any child’s choice of potential sporting activities. Use of genetic testing as an absolute predictor of athletic prowess or sport selection is unscientific and unethical.

“In this position statement, the AIS recommends genetic testing for the purpose of research in sport will not be conducted on athletes under the age of 18 years.”

Dr David Hughes said there were valid roles for genetic research and the AIS was committed to defining an ethical framework for safe use in Australia.

“As an example, the AIS supports genetic research which aims to enhance understanding of athlete susceptibility to injury or illness,” Dr Hughes said.

“The AIS is committed to providing leadership in delivering an ethical framework that protects the well-being of athletes and the integrity of sport, in the rapidly changing world of genomic science.

“The AIS will lead in defining an ethical framework which informs the conduct of genetic testing and genetic research, and its applications in sport, while preserving principles of integrity, non-discrimination, privacy and confidentiality.”

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