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China caught offering gene doping to athletes

/ Source: The Associated Press

A German television report on the availability of gene doping in China has stunned anti-doping experts shortly before the Beijing Olympics.

In a documentary by ARD television, a Chinese doctor offers stem-cell therapy to a reporter posing as an American swimming coach.

The report, filmed with a concealed camera, shows the doctor with his face blurred speaking in Chinese and offering the treatment in return for $24,000, according to a translation provided by the ARD television.

The documentary broadcast Monday did not offer evidence that the hospital had provided gene doping to other athletes, but anti-doping officials were appalled that the treatment was so readily available.

"I could not have imagined it in such a provable form," Mario Thevis, chief of the German center of preventive doping research in Cologne.

Another Cologne expert on gene doping, Patrick Diel, said he was "stunned to see it."

"It goes beyond my worst expectations," Diel said.

In the documentary, the reporter posing as an American swimming coach meets with the head of the gene therapy department of a Chinese hospital. It did not name the doctor, or the hospital.

The fictitious coach says he is seeking stem-cell treatment for one of his swimmers.

"Yes. We have no experience with athletes here, but the treatment is safe and we can help you," the doctor replies. "It strengthens lung function and stem cells go into the bloodstream and reach the organs. It takes two weeks. I recommend four intravenous injections ... 40 million stem cells or double that, the more the better. We also use human growth hormones, but you have to be careful because they are on the doping list."

The program also showed how pharmaceutical companies in China were ready to sell steroids and the blood-booster EPO.