Polygraphing Players Is Not Cricket

Steve Waugh
Polygraph advocate Steve Waugh

Guardian reporter David Hopps reports in a story published by the Sydney Morning Herald that former Australia cricket team captain Steve Waugh is advocating the use of lie detectors in an attempt to root out corruption in the scandal-plagued sport. Excerpt:

ANDREW Strauss and Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be encouraged to help stamp out corruption in cricket by taking lie-detector tests as the MCC uses the occasion of the 2000th Test match to step up its campaign to clean up the game.

The controversial proposal is the brainchild of former Australia captain Steve Waugh, who wants leading captains such as Strauss and Dhoni to act as ambassadors and role models by voluntarily putting their reputations on the line.

But the proposal is not supported by the Australian Cricketers’ Association, because lie-detector tests are not admissible in court.

”I applaud Steve Waugh for looking at creative and proactive ways to deal with corruption, but we wouldn’t support the use of polygraphs at this point in time,” ACA chief executive Paul Marsh said. ”Results can be affected if you’re nervous or under stress or whatever, so there may be reasons, other than not telling the truth, that you fail it and we couldn’t open players up to that.”

Waugh is at Lord’s as chairman of an MCC world cricket committee working party that was charged last year with investigating ways corruption might be eradicated. He made his chief proposal only metres away from where Strauss and Dhoni supervised practice ahead of a Test series that will decide whether England or India finish the summer as the No 1 team in the world.

The Australia Cricketers’ Association is right to reject lie detector “testing,” as it has no scientific basis. While polygraphy is inherently biased against truth-tellers, the “test” can trivially be defeated using simple countermeasures that anyone can learn and polygraph operators cannot detect.

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