David Epstein writes about sports science and medicine, Olympic sports, and is an investigative reporter. The Sports Gene is his first book. It was a top 10 New York Times best seller, and was chosen as a best non-fiction book of 2013 by The Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly. Runner’s World chose The Sports Gene as its book of the year, and the book was a finalist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, the PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Award, and the National Academy of Sciences Communication Award. It has been translated into sixteen languages.
David has given lectures about the science of high performance on five continents, including a 2014 TED Talk that was one of the 20 most viewed of the year. His science writing has won a number of awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists 2010 Deadline Club Award for an article on the genetics of sports performance; Time Inc.’s Henry R. Luce Award for public service for an article on the dangers of the dietary supplement industry; and the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association’s “Big Hearted Journalism” award for his story “Following the Trail of Broken Hearts,” on sudden cardiac death in athletes. That story included reporting on the death of his friend and former track and field training partner, Kevin Richards, and was selected as number 83 in the top 100 stories of the last 100 years by Columbia Journalism alumni. Epstein was a 2011 Livingston Award finalist (for the best American journalism by a writer under 35) for a package that included articles on pain in sports, painkiller addiction among athletes, and the anticipatory skills that allow Major Leaguers to hit 100 mph fastballs.
Epstein authored or co-authored several of Sports Illustrated’s most high profile investigative pieces, including the revelation that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003; an investigation of fraudulently marketed athletic performance and healthcare remedies (including deer antler spray); and an investigation that prompted the resignation of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel by revealing a pattern of NCAA violations during his tenure. In 2009, Epstein did a three-month stint with ProPublica, where he wrote about the dangers of nuclear cleanup work funded by the federal stimulus package. In 2011, he co-authored a story that elicited a lawsuit threat from Lance Armstrong. (Epstein thinks it was extremely unfunny at the time, but it is fairly amusing now.)
Epstein graduated from Columbia University in 2002 with a B.S. in environmental science and astronomy, and holds master’s degrees in journalism and environmental science from the school. In addition to SI, Epstein has worked as the overnight crime reporter on the city desk of the New York Daily News and covered higher ed (particularly science funding policy) for the online publication Inside Higher Ed. Prior to becoming a journalist, he worked as an ecology researcher above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, and once served on a seismic research vessel that was mapping the sea floor of the Pacific Ocean. (He didn’t sleep much, because his room was on the D-deck, which is where the water hits and the sonar pings and the seismic air guns rattle the hull like a tin can.) In addition to Sports Illustrated, his broadcast work has appeared on This American Life and BBC Panorama, and his articles have appeared in the The New York Times, Discover, Scientific American, Slate, The Washington Post, British GQ, National Geographic, The Atlantic and The Guardian, among other publications.
An avid runner, Epstein was a member of Columbia’s varsity track squad (he ran the 800) and twice earned All-East honors in NCAA Division I. He is also very good at catching marshmallows in his mouth. The anticipatory skills required for such a feat are explained in the first chapter of his book, The Sports Gene.