Drug Games

Drug Games: The International Olympic Committee and the Politics of Doping, 1960–2008

Thomas M. Hunt
Foreword by John Hoberman
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Drug Games
    Book Description:

    On August 26, 1960, twenty-three-year-old Danish cyclist Knud Jensen, competing in that year's Rome Olympic Games, suddenly fell from his bike and fractured his skull. His death hours later led to rumors that performance-enhancing drugs were in his system. Though certainly not the first instance of doping in the Olympic Games, Jensen's death serves as the starting point for Thomas M. Hunt's thoroughly researched, chronological history of the modern relationship of doping to the Olympics. Utilizing concepts derived from international relations theory, diplomatic history, and administrative law, this work connects the issue to global political relations.

    During the Cold War, national governments had little reason to support effective anti-doping controls in the Olympics. Both the United States and the Soviet Union conceptualized power in sport as a means of impressing both friends and rivals abroad. The resulting medals race motivated nations on both sides of the Iron Curtain to allow drug regulatory powers to remain with private sport authorities. Given the costs involved in testing and the repercussions of drug scandals, these authorities tried to avoid the issue whenever possible. But toward the end of the Cold War, governments became more involved in the issue of testing. Having historically been a combined scientific, ethical, and political dilemma, obstacles to the elimination of doping in the Olympics are becoming less restrained by political inertia.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-78476-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    John Hoberman

    Given the sheer scope of the doping epidemic that has engulfed Olympic sport since the 1960s, it is tempting to ask whether the founder of the modern Olympic Games, the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, might have anticipated that widespread drug use would eventually infilltrate the world of high-performance sport. This may seem like a far-fetched speculation; most people, after all, regard doping as a recent development and do not associate the nascent sports world of the 1890s with the use of performance-enhancing drugs. This view is, however, mistaken; it was well known at the time that the long-distance cyclists of...

    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-5)

    Until recently, diplomatic historians have demonstrated little enthusiasm for sophisticated, archive-based studies of sport and international relations.¹ Moreover, political scientists have refrained almost entirely from integrating athletics into their theories about the nature of the international political system.² Members of the microfield of sport history have with few exceptions isolated themselves from both groups.³ Former National Security Council member Victor D. Cha lamented, “If the operative question is how sport ‘fits’ into our understanding of world politics, then the bottom line is that the existing literature offers no clear or consistent answers.”⁴

    Reflecting this general underdevelopment, the few works of...

    (pp. 6-26)

    On August 26, 1960, twenty-three-year-old Danish cyclist Knud Jensen, riding in the 100-kilometer team time trial in that year’s Rome Olympic Games, fell from his bike and fractured his skull on the pavement below. Several hours later, he died. Medical responders at first attributed the tragedy to a cerebral hemorrhage caused by heatstroke. The relatively mild temperatures that Friday and suspiciously similar collapses by two of Jensen’s teammates, however, raised questions among those who followed the event. Alberto Oberholzer, director of the hospital where the cyclists received treatment, noted that it “seemed strange” that only the Dances experienced difficulty with...

    (pp. 27-37)

    Leading up to the 1968 Winter and Summer Games, the IOC medical commission tried to exclude the other members of the Olympic governance system from the issue of doping, including the remainder of the IOC. In so doing, de Merode hoped to establish his group as the sole regulatory authority regarding performance enhancement in Olympic competition. The medical commission asserted that the multilayered system of tests proposed for the Winter Games, which included thin-layer chromatography, gas chromatography, “plus any other methods which could prove to be necessary … will be given to the IOC Medical Commission only[,] who will decide...

    (pp. 38-48)

    In the 1970s, a broadening of nationalist forces brought an additional source of pressure on anti-doping policy in Olympic governance. Since its inception in the late nineteenth century, the Olympic movement had been marked by a curious intermingling of nationalist elements alongside a broader internationalist mission.¹ The father of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, believed, for instance, that nationalism should maintain a prominent place in Olympic competition. Indeed, as long as nationalism functioned properly, it was for him “by no means detrimental.” In de Coubertin’s vision, a global institution of athletics would operate as an agent of world...

    (pp. 49-60)

    The inconsistent application of doping regulations in conjunction with the Black September terrorist attacks—during which thirteen Israeli Olympians were killed—led to significant introspection among Olympic policymakers in the aftermath of the Munich Games. This introspection coincided with the retirement of Avery Brundage as IOC president. Having ruled for twenty years with an iron grip, Brundage retired with the prediction that the movement would not survive in his absence.¹ Hoping for a less dictatorial leader, the IOC elected Lord Michael Morris Killanin, an Irishman, as its new president. “He was the key element,” as later put by sports administrator...

    (pp. 61-70)

    In the final decade of the Cold War, the perceived ideological importance of the Olympic movement led to its continuation as a proxy in the political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. At the same time that their respective boycotts of the 1980 Moscow Games and the 1984 Los Angeles Games threatened the future viability of the Olympic movement, the superpowers also had important influences on the direction of doping control policy.¹ Deferring to the wishes of Soviet sport administrators and distracted by the American boycott, IOC leaders failed to fulfill hopes for an effective testing regimen...

    (pp. 71-86)

    The USOC continued its policy of testing American athletes in the period before the opening of the Games, conducting testing in the summer of 1984 in the run-up to the Los Angeles Olympics.¹ Drug screens were considered “formal” at the 1984 American Olympic trials in the sense that sanctions were required for positive results, but Dr. Voy later learned that many athletes were allowed to compete despite affirmative indications of doping.² In a self-incriminating report that was withheld until after the conclusion of the 1984 Games, USOC president F. Don Miller admitted that eighty-six athletes, including ten at the Olympic...

    (pp. 87-99)

    The dismantling of the Berlin Wall, which began in November 1989, signaled the end of the GDR sport machine and revealed the secrets of its extensive doping system.¹ The subsequent collapse of the Soviet empire likewise resulted in broadened prospects for a more cohesive political process regarding the doping issue. In Asia, a rise in indications of doping among athletes from the People’s Republic of China was met with offcial prohibitions against performance-enhancing substances in that country.

    Although organizational hurdles remained, leaders in both governmental and nongovernmental bodies engaged in efforts to merge the powers of the existing set of...

    (pp. 100-110)

    From the perspective of global political affairs, the opening to the West of the People’s Republic of China during the 1970s and 1980s proved transformative. After nearly three decades of absence, the PRC rejoined Olympic competition at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. As the contacts between the PRC and the outside world grew over the following decade, PRC scientists gained increasing access to Western pharmaceutical information, and Chinese athletes soon began to employ doping techniques at elite competitions.¹

    The conclusion of the Cold War exerted a profound influence over the way in which foreign audiences perceived...

  14. Nine A NEW CENTURY
    (pp. 111-124)

    As IOC president Samaranch approached retirement in the summer of 2001, he was hopeful about the continued financial viability of the Games, but he expressed pessimism about the battle against doping: “in doping, you can only get partial victories.”¹ The Olympics were reaching record levels of financial success, as exemplified by the IOC’s successful negotiation of a set of contracts collectively worth $1.3 billion for the broadcast rights of the 2000 Sydney Games. At the same time, however, a variety of new performance-enhancing techniques were coming into use.²

    Presenting fresh challenges to Olympic officials, several of these practices, including the...

    (pp. 125-134)

    In January of 2002, news broke that a number of national governments had at last arranged to fulfill their funding obligations to WADA. With an additional $8.5 million from these sources, of which the U.S. and Canadian governments each contributed $800,000, the new agency expected that its yearly budget would grow to $25 million by 2006. The new erythropoietin screens cost between $1,000 and $1,200 each, and the additional funds allowed for a considerably more aggressive precompetition anti-doping program. As athletes grappled with the decision as to whether they should risk the tests by competing, Pound lauded the effort. “All...

    (pp. 135-138)

    Since doping first became an issue of public concern in the 1960s, Olympic policymakers, regardless of the individual organization to which they belonged, have for the most part confronted the problem on an ad-hoc basis with little long-term planning. For many years, substantive reforms were rarely undertaken outside times of crisis. This was in part due to the diffuse governance system under which the Olympic movement operates; until the establishment of WADA in 1999, regulatory power over doping was divided among several levels of international and national federations, national Olympic committees, and organizing bodies for individual competitons. And, up until...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 139-184)
    (pp. 185-206)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 207-218)