Academic journal article China: An International Journal

The Politics of Sports Anti-Doping in China: Crisis, Governance and International Compliance

Academic journal article China: An International Journal

The Politics of Sports Anti-Doping in China: Crisis, Governance and International Compliance

Article excerpt

The rise of China has sparked much debate about whether it will be a status quo power or a spoiler. This article examines China's compliance with international rules and norms governing doping in sports. In the 1990s China was at the centre of a series of high profile doping scandals in the sports world and caused much distress to the international sports regulatory regime. Has the Chinese Government succeeded in cleaning up its international sports or have Chinese athletes become more sophisticated at evading detection? This study concludes that international pressure has prompted the Chinese Government to escalate efforts to curb doping in sports. It offers a unique window on China's governance and its compliance with international rules and norms.

**********

The rise of China has sparked much debate about whether it will be a status quo power or spoiler in the existing international order. (1) This article examines China's troubled history with doping in international sports in order to shed light on China's governance and compliance with international rules and norms.

Why doping in sports? First, although sports competition, unlike national defence and military conflict, is not within the realm of high international politics, it is nonetheless of high stakes for nation-building and national prestige. (2) National sports have long been powerful rallying points for many nations, and China is no exception. For the past century, successive Chinese governments have linked the promotion of modern sport with China's nation-building project. (3)

Second, scholars of international norms have noted that countries are most likely to be sensitive to international norms and pressure when they care about their international image or reputation. (4) Moreover, the literature on international integration and national governance has posited a strong relationship between international integration and national governance, especially national corruption. (5) Measured in terms of the degree of integration, few areas or sectors can match sports competition, even for large countries such as China and the United States. It is therefore possible to test whether China, a relatively new but aggressive entrant to world sports competition, has behaved in line with the predictions of the existing literature.

Success in sports for China has been intertwined with China's politics. In the Mao era, China was mostly absent from the world of competitive sports due to a western embargo and its decision to adhere to the ideology of "friendship first, competition second" signified by the famous ping-pong diplomacy. (6) This age of innocence ended quickly in the reform era, especially with the inspiring performances of the Chinese women's volleyball team and after Chinese athletes performed well at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (which were boycotted by the Soviet Union). (7) While the whole country coveted international medals and awards as symbols of national strength and honour, athletes and coaches soon learned that medals brought not only fame but also monetary payoffs, better careers, and more.

By the 1990s China was at the centre of a series of high-profile doping scandals in the sports world that caused much distress to international sports governance. Some of China's most elite athletes were stripped of their medals in major international competitions for using performance-enhancing drugs. Embarrassing doping scandals at the 1994 Asian Games and especially the 1998 World Championships placed the Chinese sports authorities and the national leadership on the defensive and provided ammunition for China's critics. Even more than the widespread counterfeiting in the commercial world, cheating in the sports world gave rise to the view that China would seek to win by whatever means, and at the expense of honest and hardworking athletes.

To salvage its tattered reputation, avoid expulsion from certain sports and regain the confidence of global society, the Chinese sports leadership needed to act, and act quickly, to curb the high incidence of sports doping, especially since China first sought and then won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.