Archive | November 18, 2015

The “Sport of Kings” Adopts Cloning to Prolong the Polo Pony Dynasty

November 18, 2015

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By Danielle Oliver – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

In Canada and the United States you don’t have to be a sports fanatic to know the hot topics making their way around in the media. Discussions of “Deflategate” and murmurs of “McJesus” have reached anyone with Twitter, Facebook, cable, radio access, or a set of ears.

However, there are contentious sports stories falling under the radar. One that caught my attention pertains to the equestrian sport of polo, particularly the introduction of genetically cloning the finest horses in hopes to replicate their peak performance on the field.

Knowing little about the sport (and after shuffling through the overwhelming amount of Ralph Lauren search results), I found some perspective on the mysterious sport of polo and the implications around cloning prized ponies. The implementation of this technology is young but the concerns were well forecasted going back as early as 2006, many of which are analogous to that of the controversy over doping in sports.

Polo players are rightly concerned that in order to stay competitive in the sport, they must resort to cloning. So far, 85% of clones have performed just as, if not better, than the originals when reared in similar environments. This development will remove a portion of the uncertainty that comes with breeding. Furthermore, players believe that this technology will skew the sport in favour of the rich (as if polo isn’t already extremely skewed in favour of the rich). But when considering that the first clone of Cuartetero – a once prized polo mare – sold for $800,000, it is feasible that cloning will create a disparity of access even among the ridiculously wealthy.

Similarly, in the debate against doping, players don’t want to be forced to dope in order to compete at a high level. Additionally, it has been argued that permitting the use of designer drugs in sports will create a greater advantage for the rich. One may argue that because it’s not the actual athletes who are being tampered with, cloning horses isn’t comparable with doping.

But as polo players will tell you, these ponies have a significant impact on the outcome of the game. Despite the commonality in arguments against doping in sport and cloning in polo, the former remains banned while the latter is permitted. Furthermore cloning is completely unregulated. The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (IFES) governs and enforces a code of conduct that protects the horses from physical abuse and doping but has remained silent on the issue of cloning. The lack of regulation is peculiar, as it seems that the IFES code of conduct exists to ensure animal welfare and the risks of mutation, disease, and suffering associated with cloning are still unknown. There are currently no protections against these potential risks. Furthermore, without regulation, what is stopping the lab techs from further modifying the genetic make-up of these animals to create an unfair advantage?

Some countries that participate in the sport have recognized these issues. The European Union is talking about banning cloning in sport polo but they have no jurisdiction over the teams coming out of Latin America, India, China, and the Middle East. This means the ban would have little to no effect on the cloning phenomenon that appears to be taking over the “sport of kings”.
Other than the IFES, no other regulatory body can regulate this technology in a uniform manner. As it stands, cloning has gained widespread popularity and, without a ban, will likely take over the sport in the next 5-10 years, regulated or not. Who knows, maybe the introduction of cloning is just what sport polo needs to place the term “Game of Clones” up with the rest of taglines in sports media.

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Because It’s 2015

November 18, 2015

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By Breanna Morrow – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

When it comes to gender equality, it seems as though we have made significant strides from the backwards views of yesteryear. Earlier this month, Canada’s Parliamentary cabinet was announced to include an equal number of men and women. This is important for a myriad of reasons, but as our Prime Minister most succinctly stated it simply matters “because it’s 2015.” Society seems to finally be embracing the ideals of gender equality. Unfortunately not all aspects of society can be said to be so inclusive. What government seems to have at long last grasped, sport still does not seem to get.

On November 3rd, 2015 Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to ever win the Melbourne Cup. What should be viewed as an incredible achievement and victory for women in a heavily male dominated sport is instead ruffling feathers. After her win Payne did not hold back, acknowledging the sexism that is prevalent in horse racing and even labelling it as a “chauvinistic sport”. Rather than celebrating her success, people in the industry, as well as those outside it, are condemning her words. There is disapproval of the fact that she spoke out strongly and told her critics to “get stuffed”. That disapproval is exactly what she is trying to fight against. Her hope is that her victory can have a positive effect for fellow female jockeys. She is attempting to draw attention to the very real gender imbalance in the hope that she can help fix it for others. It is a highly commendable pursuit and the backlash she is facing only highlights how common gender discrimination and inequality still are in sports.

Certainly horse racing is not the only sport that has recently had gender equality issues. It would seem plausible to venture a guess that some form of gender inequity crops up daily around the country from the smallest rec leagues all the way up to the highest levels of sport. Sometimes these issues reach such a vexing level that they find their way into the courts and tribunals looking for justice.

In 2010, women ski jumpers turned to the courts arguing that their inability to compete in the Vancouver Olympics, while men in the same sport were able to do so, was a violation of their Charter rights. In 2014, a group of the top female soccer players filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal because they were expected to play on artificial turf while their male counterparts would never be required to play on anything but real grass. While neither of these cases achieved the result they sought (the former failed due to lack of Charter applicability and the latter was dropped by the players), they still had the important effect of bringing gender inequality to the public’s attention. These cases made headlines and made the world more aware of the issues that women face when competing in sport.

While these cases and others like them are laudable for the attention that they bring to what is often an overlooked area, it is exasperating that they even need to go the courts to begin with. It should not have to be up to the justice system to fix what is systemically wrong with society. It is time for society to realize what is happening and be proactive. It is time that we stopped treating female athletes and sports as lesser. It is time that we listen to the advocates when they bravely speak out. After all, it is time for gender equality in sports. Why? Because it’s 2015.

 

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