Manchester United have ruled out commissioning genetic profiles of their players on ethical grounds, it can be disclosed. Writes MARTYN ZIEGLER in Independent.ie – PUBLISHED 18 MARCH 2014
Two unnamed Premier League clubs have been revealed as having ordered the DNA data on their senior and junior players to flag up whether they have genes which indicate being injury-prone and their balance of power and endurance genes.
Such profiling has been questioned by sports science experts, and United are understood to be concerned about the ethical implications of taking DNA data from their players.
A United spokesman told Press Association Sport: “We’re aware of the science but we don’t feel it’s appropriate for our practise.”
A British-based company, DNAFit, is also working with a leading European team as well as the two Premier League clubs but has insisted their identities must remain confidential.
Britain‘s 800metres runner Jenny Meadows, bronze medallist at the 2009 world championships and 2011 European indoor champion, has confirmed however she is using her genetic profile to help avoid injury and choose the best nutrition.
Meadows’ profile has shown she has a version of a gene which may make her susceptible to tendon injuries.
The availability of similar genetic data to football clubs about their players however raises ethical concerns.
Dr Ross Tucker, who works for Sports Science Institute of South Africa which has carried out a lot of research into genetics and sport, said such information could be used by clubs to determine whether to keep a player on, sell him or pay him less.
Tucker said: “Knowing there is a predisposition to injury or performance presents some ethical problems.
“The genetic information belongs to the individual, and it is a very sensitive issue. If you were a player with a slightly increased risk of a cardiac incident or even just tendon injuries, and the club has access to that data that could influence their thinking if they are preparing to spend millions of pounds on that player.”
Tucker was approached by a different genetics company when we was working with South Africa’s rugby sevens team but rejected the approach.
He added: “We already knew which players were injury prone and every single player was already being managed optimally. Knowledge of the genetic link wouldn’t have changed anything.”
Keith Grimaldi, DNAFit’s chief scientific officer, insists there are benefits from the technology even if there is no ‘Lionel Messi gene’ identifiable which suggests a person had a talent for football.
He said: “It can make small but important differences which could make an impact long-term.
“When the England team go to Brazil we could know in advance who has a very high risk of sunstroke or sunburn, who has a very low risk, and who is in between. That is useful information and it is far better to know it than not.”