University of Texas professor explores cultural phenomenon of doping

  • By Mark Johnson
  • Published Nov. 16, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 30, 2014 at 1:32 PM EDT

Not criminal

While criminal proceedings in France helped spur the IOC into creating WADA, Hoberman feels criminalizing sports doping in the U.S. is not a way forward. Jailing athletes “is just a diversion” from addressing root causes, he says. Instead, he suggests understanding how the circumstances of being a pro cyclist representing both sponsor and country affects a rider’s mindset.

Comprehending the riders’ worldview is key, he says, “going into the ranks of the competitors and really trying to understand how they think and what their motivations are.”

Hoberman says both David Millar’s and Tyler Hamilton’s books offer lessons on how culture can chaperone an athlete into doping. Hoberman notes that “even Tyler Hamilton, who is less introspective than Millar,” has something to teach.

“You learn things about the emotional lives of these people and the stresses they are under,” said Hoberman. “It’s a subculture and it has to be restructured.”

According to Hoberman, the sport “has to be reincentivized. You can’t just replace Pat McQuaid with a more trustworthy person at the top of the UCI and proceed to business as usual.” He says that playing musical chairs at the UCI would not solve problems further down in the sport, like the motives of its medical professionals.

“It turns out there are a lot of dirty doctors,” said Hoberman, referring to Hamilton’s experiences. “There are these seduction scenes, and the doctor knows how to play the young man he is dealing with.”

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Writer-photographer Mark Johnson's work has been published in titles including VeloNews in the United States, Cycling Weekly in the UK, Vélo in France, and Ride Cycling Review in Australia as well as general-interest publications including The Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union-Tribune. His book on the Garmin pro team, Argyle Armada, was published by VeloPress in 2012. A Cat. 2 road cyclist, Mark has bicycled across the United States twice and completed an Ironman triathlon. He graduated from UC San Diego and has a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University. His other passion is surfing, which he does frequently from his home in Del Mar, California. Follow him on Twitter @ironstringmark.

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