I’m currently reading Mark Johnson’s 400 page Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports.
I’m still in the opening chapters, in which Johnson describes the history of doping from the advent of professional sports until public attitudes begin to change around the 1940s. I think most of us know that drug use was widely done and accepted. Contemporaries understood, for example, that the (in)famous six day races of the late 19th century couldn’t have been done without the aid of cocaine, strychnine and nitroglycerine. It’s widely asserted to this day that the Tour de France can’t be won without doping, with some winners who tested positive and respond to the question “Did you dope?” with a Gallic shrug regarded as heroes, even as others are demonized and stripped of their medals.
Johnson also discusses the motivations behind modern “amateur” competition, to wit International Olympic Committee founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin gentrified athletic endeavors to keep the riffraff away. The leisure class, for a while, became the only people who could afford to spend all day everyday training.
Johnson lays his thesis out at the beginning: the doping is not about individuals who cheat, but is instead the inevitable result of a system — a system that includes fans such as you and I — that absolutely demands doping to win. The press materials for this book tease us with hints of what Johnson believes can and should be done about modern drug regulations, but I’ll withhold my opinions on this until I’ve read the entire book.
You can buy Spitting from Amazon.com, where it’s currently listed at #23 in the category “Sociology of Sports.” You can also order it through Bookshop Santa Cruz and pick up your copy in a day or two.