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Monday, August 5, 2013

Why Do Professional Athletes Risk Doping?

Tyson Gay of the United States, left, and Asafa Powell of Jamaica, right, during their 100 meter race at the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, an international track and field event. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Tyson Gay of the United States, left, and Asafa Powell of Jamaica, right, during their 100 meter race at the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, an international track and field event. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez was caught doping — but it’s not just baseball.

In 2013 alone, track star Tyson Gay, tennis player Victor Troicki and sprinter Asafa Powell have all tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Why are athletes still taking chances with doping when the stakes are so high? According to Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein, it’s because athletes who dope are rarely caught.

“Testing is largely ineffective,” Epstein told Here & Now. “And it’s worth it. Look at LeBron James — he got fined $3 million out of a $100 million contract.”

American Olympic athletes undergo the most rigorous drug testing. Still, the rate of false negatives are extremely high and athletes are able to use lower doses of performance enhancing drugs that go undetected, Epstein said.

Authorities are starting to use data gathering and investigations instead, to catch athletes who dope.

“Intelligence gathering is the new anti-doping,” he said.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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