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Outside the Lines

The Athlete of the 21st Century

Science to give the human body a makeover

Genetics: Finding the right stuff

Rehab: Knees made easy

Bionics: Calling Steve Austin

Next 100 years: The future is in your hands


Audio chat wrap: Princeton geneticist Lee Silver and Oakland A's strength coach Bob Alejo

Chat wrap: Gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi


Princeton geneticist Lee Silver predicts what sports will be like in 2050.
Standard | Cable Modem

Tuesday, June 3
Sports 2050: More options
By Tom Farrey

The year is 2050.

You are now an Olympic-caliber decathlete. And you have a decision to make: How far will you go to stay competitive?

Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Grandma Jackie would be proud of you.
Fortunately, as the child of Trey Griffey (son of the retired slugger Ken Griffey Jr.) and Jada Kersee (daughter of former Olympians Bobby Kersee and Jackie Joyner-Kersee), you have an unusually rich genetic endowment. Parents have been tinkering with genetic engineering for a generation now -- at first eliminating disease-based genes, then gradually trying to improve certain physical traits in their unborn children -- but so far, nothing has proven so effective as old-fashioned mating by genetically rich parents.

You are the toast of the Theodore Kaczynski Society, a growing group of citizens who believe advancing technology will ruin the world. But at the same time, you see the success of rivals who have employed the latest science.

Many of them regularly use pharmacogenetic drugs tailored to their individual genetic profiles -- giving them the same advantage as the old anabolic steroids, minus the side effects. Some are using the so-called strength virus, which has been around for 30 years and allows the athlete to grow muscle with a simple injection.

The gold medalist in the recent Olympics used synthetic, oxygen-rich blood, which has been perfected and adapted to high-performance sports over the past 50 years. The silver medalist was competing in his sixth Olympics, due in part to tissue engineering that allowed him to regrow superior knee cartilage and other body parts that wore down.


You? Wheaties (the gold medalist's picture is on the box cover).

Some friends think you're foolish for not bellying up to the scientific smorgasbord. After all, what is "natural" anymore anyway? Did Bruce Jenner grow up eating genetically enhanced food, as everyone in today's society does? Did Jim Thorpe have the advantage of brain wave experts who could help him manage his concentration, as athletes even 50 years ago had? What mythical organic state, exactly, are you trying to achieve? And why?

Ethical questions like these have dogged the governing bodies of sports, who have had to continuously revise their policies on performance enhancing substances and techniques. Confused about what is natural versus unnatural, healthy versus unhealthy -- and incapable of devising tests to detect substances such as genetically-tailored drugs -- the International Olympic Committee finally threw up its arms and decided that whatever goes, goes.

As an athlete in the above scenario, which products would you consider using, assuming they have been proven safe and effective? (Select as many options as you want in the poll at right).

Sports in the Year 2010 | 2050 | 2100

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