Gene injections in rats can double muscle strength and speed, researchers have found, raising concerns that the virtually undetectable technology could be used illegally to build super athletes.

A University of Pennsylvania researcher seeking ways to treat illness said studies in rats show muscle mass, strength and endurance can be increased by injections of a gene-manipulated virus that goes to muscle tissue and causes a rapid growth of cells.

”The things we are developing with diseases in mind could one day be used for genetic enhancement of athletic performance,” Lee Sweeney said Monday at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Sports officials said the gene therapy has the potential of betraying the very essence of sport athletes using their natural talents and training to compete.

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