Tag Archive for doping

Between Performance and Beauty: Towards a sociological understanding of trajectories to drug use in a gym and bodybuildning context

by Jesper Andreasson

Vol. 4 2013, pages 69–90
Published May 22, 2013


Emanating from an ethnographic study of Swedish bodybuilders, this article aims to present a sociological understanding of various circumstances influencing the decision to begin taking performance-enhancing drugs. Theoretically, the research builds upon a constructionist approach, in which actors’ identity claims, the way they describe themselves and their group affiliation, are understood both as individual stories of identity construction and as discursive statements. The result shows that the willingness to perform, to focus on the body’s function, is a paradigmatic narrative being expressed throughout. As such, this performance oriented lifestyle can be related to traditional values saluted within organised sports and also understood as a fairly stable part of a hegemonic masculine construction. However, the results also show how the performance logic is entwined with a strong zest for bodily aesthetics. In the article, this cultural ambiguity is used as an analytical window through which one can see how different understandings of gender, health and doping continuously are socially negotiated in relation to contemporary fitness culture and public health organisations in Swedish society. By analysing doping trajectories in this way the article suggests that drug using practises could be understood as an activity performed along a continuum of cultural and societal (over-)conformity, rather than actions representing societal abnormality.

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About the Author

JESPER ANDREASSON is associate professor of sport science at Linnaeus University and has a PhD in Sociology. He has written mainly in the field of gender studies, and the sociology of sport. Andreasson’s doctoral dissertation, The Gender of Sports from 2007 (Swedish), focuses on how gender, the body and sexuality are constructed within Swedish team sports. His more recent work is found within the field of gym/fitness culture, gender, bodybuilding and doping. He has a qualitative and ethnographic approach in his research and is currently working on a book-project focusing gender, health and pedagogies within gym and fitness culture.

Dopning utanför idrotten – individualisering och muskulösa skönhetsideal: En studie av dopning i grundskola, gymnasium och på gym i Kalmar kommun

by David Hoff

Vol. 4 2013, pages 1–24
Published February 15, 2013


The use of performance enhancing drugs, especially anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) has emerged as a social problem outside competitive sports, linked to substance abuse and crime. The purpose of this article is to analyze the use of doping and attitudes to doping outside the competitive sports context in relation to age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and branch of sport. The article is based on a survey study carried out in Kalmar Municipality at elementary schools (age=appr. 14; n=383), high schools (age=appr. 16; n=208) and fitness centers (n=327). The results showed that 1% of the girls and 2% of boys at elementary school, and 2% of girls and boys at high school, reported use of banned substances. 5% of the girls and 15% of the boys at high school had been offered illegal substances. At fitness centers, 4% of the women and 5% of the men reported doping use, most commonly in the age group 31-35 (15%). Gender differences were smaller than previous studies would suggest. Ethnic and socio-economic factors had only minor effects on prevalence of doping, which was more common among individuals who practiced strength sports and martial arts. Regarding attitudes towards doping, a large proportion of the pupils at elementary schools (45%) and students at high schools (56%) claimed that it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to use doping substances. The results are discussed from the perspective of individualization processes in society and in connection to influences from muscular body ideals, where doping together with work-out are analyzed as effective means for body transformations in individual (body-)identity projects.

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About the Author

DAVID HOFF is Associate Professor in Social Work, at the School of Social Work, Lund University. David has a PhD in Sociology of Law, and his interests in social and sport issues (often combined) has emerged during his time at the Department of Sport Sciences at Malmö University and the Department of Social Work at Linnaeus University. His main research interests include different perspectives on doping in sports as well as outside the sport context (e.g. as a social issue of abuse). The focus of his research is on individual and social driving forces for doping in relation to processes and trends in society. He has a qualitative methodological approach in his research, and he has recently completed an interview study of Swedish elite athletes who have been using illegal performing-enhancing substances. David has also written about the system of governance in relation to doping in sport from a sociological of law perspective. At present he is conducting an interview study of performance enhancing drugs users in fitness centers as part of a study of doping outside competitive sport. He is also working in a research project on physical activity and sport in drug abuse treatment.  His latest publications include ”Doping, risk and abuse: An interview study of elite athletes with a history of steroid use” (Performance Enhancement and Health, 2012; 1; 2; 61-65), and Doping- och antidopingforskning – En inventering av samhälls- och beteendevetenskaplig forskning och publikationer 2004-2007 (FoU-rapport 2008:1. Stockholm: Riksidrottsförbundet).

Paavo Nurmi’s Posthumous Doping Case: An Essay on Drugs, Money, and the Vagaries of Sports Journalism

by Erkki Vettenniemi

Vol. 2 2011, pages 119–136
Published December 14, 2011


In the early 1930s, the Finnish long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi endorsed a medical substance that allegedly enhanced athletic performance. Sixty years later, one such endorsement was discovered and, in a rather sensationalist manner, interpreted by a Swedish newspaper as an infringement of anti-doping rules. The scoop triggered a brief war of words between Finland and Sweden. My article explores the two incidents that, taken together, testify to the alarmingly anachronistic nature of today’s dominant doping discourses. What was once an innocuous drug experiment or an advertisement of a non-controversial pharmaceutical can suddenly be construed as a form of cheating. In a further ironic twist, Nurmi’s purported drug of choice appears to have worked only as a placebo, and according to a contemporary source, it had been enough for the Finn to get paid for the endorsement without so much as touching the concoction. Yet although the nine-time Olympic champion merely violated the outdated amateur rules, his reputation can probably never fully recover from the posthumous drug slur that has been uncritically disseminated for two decades.

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About the Author

ERKKI VETTENNIEMI is a doctoral student in the Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä. He received his first doctorate in social sciences at the University of Tampere in 2001. Having switched his main attention from Soviet studies to sport history, he has published three monographs (in Finnish) and edited a volume of Paavo Nurmi’s collected works. His areas of interest include sport, cultural history and issues of performance enhancing drugs. He will defend his doctoral thesis entitled “Tinkering with Drugs: Essays on Drugs in Sport and the Nature of Sports” in 2014.