It is this: You can give your kid the
gift of knowing that you will not have his or her DNA tested to find
out what kind of athletic abilities lie within. You can let your kid
grow up and just be a kid, and find out what games she likes to play or
what sports he is good at, or stinks at, all by his or her lonesome.
You can give your kid that sweet, sweet candy we used to call childhood.
This gift is brand new: 2008 is the
first year that you could give your child the gift of DNA testing, and
thus it is the first year that you can give them the even greater gift
A new company, Atlas Genetics, is offering a kit that
will allow you to test a kid at the ripe old age of 1, with the hope of
assessing whether that creeping, crawling diapered bundle of joy is
best suited to sports that involve speed, or those needing strength and
endurance. That’s right: You can do this when the child is 1; 12
months; 365 days, an age when most kids are barely walking.
This procedure, which involves a simple
swab with a Q-Tip, is based on research concluded in the past five
years that traces ranges in athletic ability to variations in the ACTN3
gene. Atlas Genetics, which you can find online at www.atlasgene.com,
will be happy to sell you any one of a number of kits to assess your
child’s potential. It starts with the Atlas first kit, for checking out
your kid’s DNA, for $109, and goes all the way up to the Atlas Pro
system, to analyze the performance and capability of your athlete as he
or she grows along the way. The Atlas Pro goes for a cool $999.
These kits also include height and
weight charts, just in case there are any teenagers left out there who
have not been convinced by the epidemic of “makeover” shows on TV that
there is something indeed very wrong with them.
The Web site for Atlas even offers this enticement to
prospective parents: “Finding any great Olympic champion normally takes
years to determine. What if we knew a part of the answer when we were
born?” Wow! In utero testing! That would be the bomb. I’m thinking
maybe you could start sending those results off, accompanied by a
sonogram, to college athletic directors right away so they can prepare
a place for the prodigy on the team of the future.
Once you know your kid’s ACTN3 gene
breakdown, you will know two things: whether your kid is best suited,
say, for wrestling or track and field, and that you have gone
completely over the edge, and you’d better back off. Quick.
If you are even considering this testing
for your kids, you need to work on getting a life and letting the kids
have their own. We have enough nasty sideline scenes with parents at
youth competitions: Do we really need parents who have this much
invested in junior coming out to cheer for them? Who would want to be a
coach in a school where all the parents have DNA screens of their kids
tucked into their wallets and purses?
Genetic testing can open up a world of
possibilities, from disease prevention to treatment of life-threatening
ailments. It can also take us down a road that we just shouldn’t
travel. At the end of his presidency, which now seems so long ago, Bill
Clinton was in a rare reflective mood. He was asked about his affair
with Monica Lewinsky (speaking of DNA) and he shocked no one by saying
that it was the wrong thing to do. But he went further and explained
that the Oval Office liaison was wrong because, “I did it just because
I could.” With hindsight he realized that that wasn’t a good enough
reason to risk his family, his reputation and, as an aside, paralyze
the capital city of a superpower.
“Just because we can” isn’t a good
enough reason to make athletic testing our kids’ genes the norm either.
Just because we have this capability to make use of gene testing
doesn’t make doing so a good idea. There already are parents lining up
to get their kids tested, thinking this is a great way to guide them to
the right sports and a better life. I think they miss the point. This
is a genie we can only keep in the bottle with common sense.