Steroids: A New Look at Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Steroids: A New Look at Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Steroids: A New Look at Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Steroids: A New Look at Performance-Enhancing Drugs


From Baron Pierre de Coubertin's original objectives in establishing the modern Olympic Games to the increasingly widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs during the Cold War to the 1998 drug scandal during the Tour de France and beyond, "Steroids: A New Look at Performance-Enhancing Drugs" puts the social construction of steroids as a banned substance under the microscope and interprets the implications of that particular conception of steroid use in sport.

Clearly written and highly accessible for all readers, this book addresses a pressing issue in professional and high-performance sport--the use of steroids--by placing it within the historical context of the ongoing desire to achieve the pinnacle of human sport. Topics examined in detail include the three major crises of Ben Johnson's positive test in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the creation of the World Anti-Doping Association, and the House Committee on Government Oversight's probe into steroid use. The author provides a critical examination of the current ban on steroids, and boldly advocates a common-sense solution to the complex problem of steroid use in sport: the adoption of harm-reduction strategies and policies rather than outright proscription.


Testifying before the Committee on Government Reform (CoGR) on March 17, 2005, Denise and Raymond Garibaldi were unequivocal: “There is no doubt in our minds that steroids killed our son” (CoGR, 2005, p. 115). That sound bite defined the committee’s investigation into steroid use in baseball: Steroids are lethal substances that must be eradicated from sports.

How did it ever come to this? That simple question is deceptively complex. It is one that this book addresses within the context of several more questions.

First, how did sports ever become so focused on performance and victory at any cost? That critical question leads into several more. What were the reasons for banning performance-enhancing substances in the first place? Do those reasons still apply? Through what processes did steroids—more than any other substance—become so demonized? Finally, what are the real implications of the existing ban on steroids in sports?

This book focuses on five major themes: the nature of sports within the modern world; the manner in which the Olympic Games have shaped the performance imperative in modern sports; the role the Olympic Games have played in establishing the predominant attitudes toward performanceenhancing substances; the processes that have defined the current understanding of steroid use in sports; and the unintended consequences resulting from the current ban on steroids.

Although steroids affect athletes’ physiology, their use is really a socially based phenomenon. Surprisingly, however, sociologists have not played a predominant role in the formation of policies proscribing steroids in sports and other areas of social life. Their absence is unfortunate because sociology provides a unique and important perspective on sports, human performance, and the social construction of attitudes and beliefs. This book seeks to redress that absence and demonstrate what sociology can contribute to contemporary discussions of steroids and sports.

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