Home Sociology Crime, Deviance and Doping: Fallen Sports Stars, Autobiography and the Management of Stigma
Finally, we arrive at the stage where we can meet our protagonists - the fallen sports heroes and authors of self-narratives about crime, deviance and doping. All five were high-profile sporting celebrities, enjoying international success, and all were (over the period between 2003 and 2012) disgraced after exposure for using of performance-enhancing drugs. These athletes will serve as the focus of discussion in the following chapters. However, where relevant, additional interview material related to other stars found guilty of doping (such as sprinter Ben Johnson and baseball player Jose Canseco) will be drawn upon to provide further illustrative material to support my arguments.
Marion Jones was a US sprinter who came to international fame when, aged 21, she won two gold medals at the 1997 Athletic World Championships; she followed-up this success in 1999 Championships with another title for the 100m as well as securing a bronze medal in the long jump. She went on to win five medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 (three gold and two bronze), and two gold medals and a silver at the Edmonton World Athletic Championships in 2001. She was subsequently stripped of the medals from 2000 onwards after admitting doping in 2007. She was questioned by a grand jury in 2003 as part of a wide-ranging investigation into BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative). BALCO was the brainchild of self-styled ‘nutritional expert’ Victor Conte, an enterprise that was later proven to be the locus of an international trade in providing PEDs to dozens of athletes across track and field, baseball and American football. In 2007, Jones was sentenced to six months detention at Carswell Federal Prison in Texas for lying to Federal investigators under oath during the BALCO investigation and also banned from competition by the International Olympic Committee. Between 1998 and 2002, Jones was married to US shot-putter C.J. Hunter; Hunter failed multiple drug tests in the run-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics (having won the gold medal at the World Athletic Championships a year before), testing positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. Jones’ new partner, American sprinter Tim Montgomery (with whom she had a child born in 2003) was also found guilty of using PEDs, and was banned from competition and stripped of his world record for the 100m, set in 2002. He was later tried and convicted both for his part in a check fraud scheme and for dealing heroin (Hays, 2007; BBC News, 2008). Post-prison, Jones attempted to establish a new career in the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), playing for the Tulsa Shock team in 2010, but was dropped the following year. She published a confessional autobiography about her involvement in doping and incarceration in 2010, titled On the Right Track.
Dwain Chambers is a British sprinter who won medals at the European Athletics Championships, the European Indoor Athletics Championships, the World Athletics Championships, the World Indoor Athletic Championships, as well as the Commonwealth Games. In 2002 he relocated to the US and started training under coach Remy Korchemny, who in turn was a close associate of BALCO boss Victor Conte. The following year, Chambers tested positive for use of a banned substance, the so-called designer-steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Other athletes coached by Korchemny during the same period also tested positive for use of PEDs and subsequently served bans, including sprinters Kelli White, Chryste Gaines and Alvin Harrison. Chambers served a two-year ban from athletics between 2003 and 2005, as well as given a lifetime ban from Olympic competition (a ban lifted in 2012 after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport). He returned to athletic competition after his ban, and remains active - most recently, he won the UK national championship for the 100m in 2013. He published a book about his doping experiences and their aftermath, Race against Me: My Story, in 2009.
Pro cyclist Tyler Hamilton was a high-profile competitor in the Tour de France, as well as winning a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics for the USA - a medal of which he was subsequently stripped, and banned from professional cycling for two years, after testing positive for PEDs in 2004. He tested positive again in 2009, earning him an eight-year ban which effectively ended his career. Between 1995 and 2001 he was a member of the US Postal Service pro cycling team, alongside Lance Armstrong and other star riders such as George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde - all of whom were subsequently found guilty of doping.
In 2012, he published The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France (with assistance from a ‘ghost writer, Daniel Coyle - Hamilton and Coyle 2012).
David Millar is a British cyclist, who was born in Malta and grew up in England and Hong Kong. In his first season as a professional rider he won a prestigious stage at the Tour de France and wore the coveted leader’s Yellow Jersey, marking him out as a rising star of the sport. Stage wins followed at the Tour in the next two years, as well as wins in another of the three ‘grand tours’ of cycling, the Vuelta a Espana. Following an investigation by French police, he was arrested in 2004 when they found vials of the ‘blood boosting’ drug EPO in his Biarritz home. Millar was also charged with criminal offences related to the transportation and possession of PEDs, though he was ultimately acquitted. He was banned from cycling competition for two years. Upon his return to competitive cycling, he joined the US-based Slipstream team (later renamed Garmin-Sharp), a team founded on an explicit ‘anti-doping’ platform (Fotheringham, 2007). He went on to become an anti-doping activist and speaker for UK Sport, and was elected as the UK representative on anti-doping body WADAs Athlete Committee. In 2012 he published his autobiographical account of life before, during and after doping, Racing through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar.
Finally, we come to the fifth of our athletes - one of the most famous (and now infamous) sports stars of recent times, Lance Armstrong. Armstrong was born and raised in Plano, Texas, and turned to road cycling having initially competed as a professional triathlete. Between 1992 and 1996 he raced for the Motorola pro cycling team, competing in the Tour de France, as well as becoming the World Road Race champion in 1993. As mentioned in Chapter 1, Armstrong was diagnosed with stage-three testicular cancer in 1996, meaning that the disease had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain. He returned to the US for treatment, involving surgery to remove a diseased testicle as well as lesions from his brain, followed by chemotherapy. After recovery, he returned to competition in 1998, joining the US Postal Service team. In 1999 he won the Tour de France, only the second American to do so (the other being Greg Lemond). He went on to win a record seven successive tours, before announcing his retirement in 2005. His success on the roads, in combination with his story of surviving cancer and charitable work through the Lance Armstrong Foundation, made him an international celebrity, hero figure and a multi-millionaire (with an estimated wealth of $125 million - Sullivan, 2012). Since his first Tour win in 1999, there were persistent rumours and accusations about failed doping tests whose results had been suppressed, claims by former teammates about his involvement in doping, and revelations about his long-standing relationship with notorious Italian ‘doping doctor’ Michele Ferrari. Sceptical voices in the cycling press corps cynically dubbed the newly sanctified icon as ‘Cancer Jesus’ (Walsh, 2013: 281). Armstrong emphatically denied all wrong-doing, and successfully sued The Sunday Times for libel after sports journalist David Walsh accused Armstrong of doping. In 2012, USADA (the US Anti-Doping Agency) published its report on a two- year investigation into the US Postal Service team, and concluded that Armstrong had doped and trafficked drugs. He was banned for life from all WADA-regulated sports, and the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. In the wake of his confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013, Armstrong was dropped by his sponsors, having already been asked to step down as Chairman of the Livestrong Foundation. At the time of writing, Armstrong is facing numerous lawsuits from former teammates, those who donated to his charity, the US Federal government (of which the US Postal Service is a branch), and even people who purchased copies of his two autobiographies and now claim to have been defrauded. He is also reportedly being investigated by Spanish authorities about possible criminal offences of ‘trafficking, distribution and commercialization of doping drugs’ during his residency in the country (Karlinsky, 2013). Of the five athletes upon whom I focus, Armstrong is the anomaly, in that he has yet to author an autobiographical volume about doping (though one may well be forthcoming in due course). In lieu of such a source, I examine his two autobiographical books (It’s Not about the Bike (2000) and Every Second Counts (2003)), alongside a number of interviews offered by Armstrong both before and since his admissions about doping in early 2013, and in which he addresses his childhood, career, battle against cancer, and latterly his actions involving doping and their personal consequences.
Over the following five chapters, we explore in detail the self-narratives constructed by these athletes in response to the ‘fall from grace’ brought about by doping. These narratives will be read concurrently, so as to draw out common self-presentational strategies that are, I argue, habitually deployed to ameliorate and manage the impacts of stigma arising from public labelling as ‘cheats’. All the autobiographies under consideration exhibit significant commonalities in their narrative structure, following a clear sequential pattern, demarcated with the kinds of ‘turning points’ and ‘epiphanies’ noted in Chapter 1. For analytical purposes, I have reconstructed these into a five-stage narrative model (beginnings- initiation-commitment-exposure-resolution), and at each stage we can discern distinctive forms of self-presentation in which techniques of neutralisation feature as strategies for deflecting, minimising or managing stigma.
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