ROME - Serie A club Siena have taken the fight to keep drugs out of football to a new level by using a lie detector in their anti-doping programme.
The Tuscan outfit use a polygraph developed by the University of Padua's Professor Giuseppe Sartori to make sure players they are about to sign are not drugs cheats.
"We have been using it for a little while on footballers who are in the phase of being bought by the club to see whether they use or have used doping substances," Siena team psychologist Dr Umberto Zerbini told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"Up to now we've used it in private but we thought it was right to come out now and make it available to other teams and to sports insurance companies."
Zerbini said the club turned to this innovative solution to protect their image, as well as their fortunes on and off the field.
"If a player gets banned for drugs, the club suffers economic damage from the loss of an investment and sporting damage because the inability to field him can hurt results," he said.
The machine is used with a 15-minute test in which the player is asked about 70 questions.
It monitors brain activity when the answers are given and determines how truthful they are on the basis on the patterns shown.
"The machine virtually reads the mind because it traces the parts of the brain being used, which are different when you are giving fictitious or honest responses," Zerbini explained.
"Initial reactions have been positive on the whole as the players saw it as a way to certify dignified, correct behaviour.
"Some were a little scared but they were quickly reassured when we told them we were not going to go digging deep into their pasts."
Zerbini said the machine could also be used to help athletes suspected of taking drugs to show they have behaved in good faith.
"In most cases if a player tests positive there has been a conscious use of banned products," he said.
"But sometimes they may have been given something without their knowledge in a diet supplement and the machine could demonstrate this."
He added that the polygraph's potential applications go beyond the anti-doping ambit.
"It can also be used to check how well a player has recovered from an injury before they sign," he said.
"When a player gets injured, it's not just the body that must recover, as the injury also has psycho-physical consequences.
"In this case, the machine can be used to measure the player's psycho-physical capabilities and see whether these match up the objectives he says he can achieve."comments