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The symbiotic evolution of anti-doping and supply chains of doping substances: how criminal networks may benefit from anti-doping policy

Abstract

Doping in sport has been explored predominantly from a user-perspective, widely neglecting an analysis of the supply-side of the market for doping products. In this article, we aim to fill a gap in the existing literature by demonstrating that the supply chains of doping substances have evolved over the course of the past two decades, not least due to the zero tolerance approach of anti-doping policy. Specifically, adopting the case studies of (elite) cycling and recreational weight-training (RWT) and bodybuilding (BB), we outline how the supply chains for performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) have shifted away from “culturally embedded dealers” and into new organizational structures independent from these sub-cultures. We maintain that the evolution of doping supply mirrors the evolution of doping use; whereas doping was previously the result of a socialization process, and PIED suppliers were a cultural product, consumption is now often a secretive practice and “social suppliers” are no longer prepared to take risks in (openly) supplying doping products. Consequently, the increasingly clandestine nature of doping practices has led consumers to increasingly consider the “black market” as a potential source for PIEDs. Most importantly, this shift in doping supply chains has led to greater inequality among athletes, increased health risks and the rise of suppliers devoid of sociocultural characteristics. We suggest that as the current anti-doping regime, focused predominantly on punishment and control, continues unabated these unintended negative consequences are likely to increase. As several countries have begun to rethink their position on the criminalization of drugs and drug users, it is time to rethink our approach to curbing the problem of doping in sports.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Three days before the start of the 1998 Tour de France French customs discovered a large haul of doping products (e.g. amphetamines and EPO) in the car of Willy Voet, the soigneur from the Festina team. The investigation that followed revealed a widespread network of doping involving many cycling teams of the Tour de France. This scandal was an important moment in anti-doping history as it revealed that PIED use was institutionalized within the structure of elite cycling (rather than just a few individual riders), the unwillingness of sport governing bodies to tackle this problem, and, for the first time, doping was redefined from a matter of sport issue to a law and order issue (as the French police intervened) (Waddington and Smith 2009). For more information on the Festina affair see Christiansen (2005) or The Guardian (2008).

  2. 2.

    In this article, we define doping products as the prohibited products which are on the banned substances list established by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Originally, the term “performance enhancing drugs” (PEDs) was used to describe a wide variety of substances used by athletes to enhance their performance. While the term “PEDs” is still widely adopted, it is often used in reference to an elite sport context as the term goes hand in hand with “doping” which is reserved for (elite) sport. As the main goal of “non-athlete” using groups is often aesthetic modification (e.g. lose weight, increase muscle mass) and to a lesser extent, athletic enhancement (Pedersen 2010), the term performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) is more suited to the context of RWT and BB sub-cultures.

  3. 3.

    Bodybuilding is the process of developing muscle fibers through a combination of weight-training, specific calorie intake, rest and often times the use of PIEDs. Someone who engages in this activity is referred to as a bodybuilder. In contrast to strength sports, bodybuilding takes as its goal the improvement of physical appearance and is not preoccupied with bodily strength as opposed to, for example, power-lifting (Monaghan 2001). In competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders display their physique to a panel of judges, who assign points based on aesthetic appearance and presentation. In contrast, recreational weight-trainers are typically fitness-oriented persons who possess a functional attitude towards the body and adopt training methods from a variety of disciplines such as power-lifting, bodybuilding and/or Olympic weight-lifting. Therefore, one may distinguish between “physically” doing bodybuilding (specifically exercising and developing the body) and the generic social activity, consisting of formal organizations, rules and procedures, which is commonly known as “bodybuilding” (Monaghan 2001: 32).

  4. 4.

    A sub-culture “implies that there are value judgments or a social value system which is apart from a larger or central value system. From the viewpoint of the larger dominant culture, the values, norms and behaviors of the subculture set the latter apart and prevent total integration” (Wolfgang and Ferracuti 1967: 99; cited in Abadinsky 2010).

  5. 5.

    Throughout the literature on the history of doping it is often mentioned that Jensen died from his use of amphetamines and that this fatality prompted a more serious response from politicians and sporting bodies. While evidence suggests that the incident did prove something of a catalyst for firming up anti-doping policy, Møller (2005) has shown that the oft-repeated claim that Jensen’s death was doping-related is in fact unfounded.

  6. 6.

    At the national level, France and Belgium enacted anti-doping (criminal) legislation as early as 1965, however their anti-doping efforts remained rather symbolic (Brissonneau and Ohl 2010; Fincoeur et al. 2014).

  7. 7.

    WADA produced the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) to harmonize anti-doping regulations in all sports and countries. The WADC entered into force in 2004 and has since undergone several revisions.

  8. 8.

    Synthetic erythropoietin (EPO) is believed to have come into use in cycling in the 1990’s. EPO use can increase VO2max by a significant amount, making it useful for endurance sports like cycling.

  9. 9.

    The Internet is playing a growing role in the selling and buying of PIEDs (Dutch Health Commission 2010; Cordaro et al. 2011) and has a profound impact on the nature of PIED dealing (Kraska et al. 2010).

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Correspondence to Bertrand Fincoeur.

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K. J. D. Mulrooney is an Erasmus Mundus Postgraduate Fellow of Doctorate in Cultural and Global Criminology (DCGC) programme of the European Union.

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Fincoeur, B., van de Ven, K. & Mulrooney, K.J.D. The symbiotic evolution of anti-doping and supply chains of doping substances: how criminal networks may benefit from anti-doping policy. Trends Organ Crim 18, 229–250 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-014-9235-7

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Keywords

  • Doping
  • Anti-doping policy
  • Supply
  • Black market
  • Cycling
  • Weight-training
  • Bodybuilding