Tuesday, October 04, 2005

DNA Testing for Sports

In the second biggest sports story in Chicago (after the White Sox rout of Boston), the Chicago Bulls basketball team traded Eddy Curry to the New York Knicks. The Bulls had wanted Curry to take a DNA test to check for a certain heart condition and Curry refused so finally they decided to trade him to the Knicks who will not require the DNA test. I understand the Bulls' position but testing DNA for diseases for employment opens up a big can of worms. Shades of Gattaca?

On a completely different note, one-time guest blogger Scott Aaronson has joined the blogosphere himself. What took him so long?


  1. You know, frankly that scares me. As an ex-athlete (runner) we're used to the threat of testing... but that's for illeagal drugs, not DNA! It comes back to a question that strikes close to home for me: are "disabled" athletes somehow less of an athlete?

  2. We now live in the brave new world. Soon we will all be tested for one thing or another.

    Miss ht pscyh: the question isn't their diminished athletic status so much. They are entering into a contract for their athletic services, which presumes that they are able to deliver all of those services on demand.

    If they are congenitally limited in doing so, then this should be made clear before the contract is executed. Which is what the Bulls were seeking to have happen.

    More and more employers will begin to do this to their star employees, for two reasons. One, it helps them identify continual high-performers who are unconstrained by physical limitations. Two, increasingly precise and low-cost testing makes it trivial to do.

    Given the choice between two experts in computational complexity, A and B, where A is diagnosed with a congenital cardiovascular disease which will strike in five years and B is equally competent but free of the defect, any employer would be forgiven for choosing employee B to gain access to a continuous stream of work output and avoid short- and long-term disability costs.

    Better for all of us now to deal with this problem head on. Pass laws against discrimination for reasons of congenital conditions in all employment situations. Create an effective national health care program so no private insurer (or group of them) can discriminate against bearers of congenital defects.

  3. This is one use of DNA testing I wasn't aware until now.