A Medical Sociological Perspective of Doping in Sports
| Original Article
It is of course not possible to arrive at any precise estimate of the extent of drug use in sport, for those involved in doping will almost inevitably seek to conceal their activities. It is also clear that the incidence of positive tests is a poor - some would argue so poor as to be virtually useless – index of the extent of drug use in elite sport. Although the prevalence of drug use varies considerably from one sport to another it is clear that in many sports doping is widespread and that in some – professional cycling is perhaps the clearest example - the likelihood is that a majority, and perhaps a very large majority, of competitors are using performance-enhancing drugs. Marxist theory which, he argued, would suggest that the practice of doping is indicative of the alienation of individuals in modern capitalist society. Marxist sociologists he suggests, could identify many structural clues that would illustrate ‘how the athlete as a controlled human being is exploited and alienated, or how sport itself produces alienation’. The central thrust of this analysis thus focuses on developments in, and changes in the interrelationships between, medicine and sport. Let us begin by looking briefly at the medicalization of sport. It should be emphasized that such a deviant career structure within sports medicine is now firmly established and that it is possible to achieve considerable success within such careers. It would seem that in the case of bodybuilders – and, it might be suspected, in the case of drug-using athletes more generally – the fact that they may form quite tightly knit communities in which drug use is both widely accepted as legitimate and often seen as a prerequisite for success, enables them with some success to reject the hostile stereotyping from the wider society and to sustain their own more positive definition of themselves and their activities.