DNA testing in sports?

point counterpoint


$5.1 million. This is the price tag the Chicago Bulls put on centre Eddy Curry. Since they spent that kind of money on a “marquee” player, there is no doubt that the Bulls should have the right to conduct a DNA test.

No NBA franchise can afford to have a player who may or may not be healthy enough to play every single game. DNA testing of Curry could give head coach Scott Skiles critical knowledge, since knowing that one of his star players is genetically predisposed to a condition like cardiac myopathy—a potentially fatal condition when combined with arrhythmia, which Curry has—can allow him to better plan his roster.

This not only helps protect Skiles’ job security, but also the Chicago Bulls, as Curry’s health is a major determinant in the play of his teammates and their performance on the court.

History in two cases shows that DNA testing can greatly benefit players and teams.

Alonzo Mourning, currently a member of the Miami Heat, signed a four-year, $22.6 million contract in July 2003 with the New Jersey Nets, despite the fact that he had just received a kidney transplant. However, within a few months, Mourning’s condition deteriorated and he had to call it quits for the season. It only took 12 games for the Nets to see their starting centre and money go up in flames.

A DNA test might have shown the severity of Mourning’s condition and helped New Jersey make a more knowledgeable decision before signing him.

An even more pressing case concerns Reggie Lewis, a Boston Celtics Hall of Famer.

On April 29, 1993, in a first-round match against the Charlotte Hornets, Lewis collapsed during play. Team doctors thought nothing of it at halftime, yet any physician can tell you that a player who collapses unexpectedly is showing warning sings of a cardiac ailment.

A few days later, Lewis was diagnosed with tachycardia, a condition which causes an abnormally rapid heartbeat, but the physician at the time misdiagnosed the condition and said it was curable. On July 27, Lewis died after collapsing in an off-season practice due to complications from cardiac myopathy.

Again, DNA testing would have allowed the Celtics’ team physicians to better diagnose the medical issue and therefore better respond to Lewis’ condition. Curry’s health problem is eerily similar to Lewis’.

The New York Knicks traded for Curry on Tuesday, showing that the NBA still prioritizes talent.

Curry may still have the talent, but I’m sure team doctors from the ‘93 Celtics would say: “Curry would much rather have his life.”

–Rohit Aiyer


The Chicago Bulls set an interesting sporting precedent this week when they demanded that one of their players submit to a DNA test before signing him to a contract.

Eddy Curry, the 6’11” centre drafted out of high school to become the Chicago Bulls’ leading scorer, has been reduced to a test tube. That’s right, take some glassware, throw in a couple of proteins, mix in some nitrogenous bases, and presto, you’ve got one Eddy Curry.

It is utterly ridiculous that the Chicago Bulls demanded the 22-year-old submit his DNA for testing in order to step on the court again. Sure, Curry missed part of last season after being diagnosed with a heart condition, but does he not have the right to privacy?

The implications of such a test go far beyond the court, as Alan Milstein, Curry’s lawyer, pointed out in the Toronto Star. “Think about what’s at stake here,” he told the Star. “As far as DNA testing, we’re just at the beginning of that universe. Pretty soon, though, we’ll know whether someone is predisposed to cancer, alcoholism, obesity, baldness and who knows what else.

“Hand that information to an employer and imagine the implications,” he added.

In this day and age, people are chastised for racial profiling, never mind DNA screening. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “with a DNA test, a woman can find out to 80 per cent certainty if she will have breast cancer.” Now think, would you really want perfect strangers knowing that about you? And even worse, would you want that to determine if you are fit to work?

Genetic screening only turns players into playing cards—as if they aren’t already being dealt at the whim of management. It turns the person playing the game into statistics and liabilities. Curry even said if he’s sidelined again he won’t have disability insurance for his contract. If he’s diagnosed with heart problems, no one’s going to want to cash in on his $5 million agreement.

And what about the Chicago Bulls, who claimed to only want to protect Curry? After he refused the testing, he was dealt Tuesday to the New York Knicks.

Putting professional athletes under the microscope only strengthens management. And to them, it’s not about what’s best for the players—it’s all about what’s best for the franchise. In a time when identity rights are being hotly debated, the Bulls need to remember that at the end of the day, we’re dealing with human beings—people with real lives, not just test tubes and proteins.

–Keegan Tupchong

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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