Presentation on theme: "“Faster, Stronger, Manlier?: An Examination of Women and Doping in Sport” Charlene Weaving & Sarah Teetzel Kinesiology Graduate Department Performance."— Presentation transcript:
“Faster, Stronger, Manlier?: An Examination of Women and Doping in Sport” Charlene Weaving & Sarah Teetzel Kinesiology Graduate Department Performance Enhancing Drugs: A Closer Look The Physical Body Dichotomy References Future Research Introduction :. As the previous section delineates, women’s use of performance enhancing drugs and practices causes a struggle. As women’s sport becomes more popular and competitive, the pressure for female athletes to succeed and constantly improve their athletic performances increases to the point where women athletes might turn to performance enhancing drugs to meet the demands they face. However, women who attempt to increase their strength and muscle mass via drugs and practices banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency ultimately end up not only altering their physiology, but also drastically changing their physical appearances and images. The dichotomy exists in that women athletes basically become men. This creates tension because our North American contemporary social structure struggles with the notion of women possessing too much muscle. Muscular women do not fit with the stereotypical heterosexual feminine ideal. Thus, women with large amounts of muscle are not viewed in a positive light. Big, bulky, powerful muscles are neither viewed as attractive nor feminine despite the fact that they produce incredible strength and power, which is clearly advantageous for women participating in many sports. Both male and female athletes face pressure to use drugs in sport to elicit greater performances and results. Nonetheless, while the percentage of male athletes using drugs to enhance their athletic performances declined during the 1990s, the incidence of women using performance enhancing substances doubled. Many attribute the substantial rise in the number of women using drugs in sport to women’s increased participation rates in sports requiring strength and the increased athletic opportunities available to girls and women. The purpose of this brief ethical examination is twofold. Firstly, we will provide an overview of women athlete’s connection with performance enhancing substances. Typically, doping is viewed as a male pursuit and the notion of women doping is largely discounted by the sporting community as well as in scientific research. Secondly, we will examine the dichotomy that exist when women dope. For example, it appears that women athletes must uphold a stereotypical heterosexual feminine appearance in order to be socially accepted as a female athlete. A conflict occurs when women’s bodies become more muscular from using performance enhancing methods because their bodies transform and become antithetical to social ideals, constructs and expectations. Saltman, Ken. (1998) “Men with Breasts.” Journal of Philosophy of sport. XXV, pp World Anti-Doping Agency. (2003) World Anti-Doping Code. Montreal: World Anti-Doping Agency. Young, Iris Marion. (1988) “The Exclusion of Women from Sport: Conceptual and Existential Dimensions.” In Philosophic Inquiry in Sport. Edited by William J. Morgan and Klaus V. Meier. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics Publishers, pp From the diet of dried figs used by ancient Olympic competitors to the stimulants used by Ancient Egyptians and Roman gladiators, doping in sport took place long before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) identified it as a worrisome issue in the 1960s. Since then, the use of drugs and other practices banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency has become an enormous ethical issue in sport. Several hundred drugs enhance strength, endurance, power, and muscle control and are consequently banned in sport. The majority of these substances fall under the categories of stimulants, narcotics, anabolic agents, diuretics, and peptide hormones. Determining the prevalence of drug use in sport is extremely difficult due to the lengths guilty athletes will take to mask their use of banned substances. IOC accredited drug testing laboratories typically find 1-2% of all samples they test to show positive doping results. However, the actually percentage of athletes who use performance enhancing drugs is thought to be much higher. This is because athletes that dope (and their pharmacological suppliers) are often one step ahead of the detection agencies and use drugs that are currently undetectable. Male and female athletes face many risks if they choose to use chemical means to help shave seconds off their personal best times, run faster, jump higher, fight harder, and in general push themselves to their absolute (and now extended) physical limits in sport. In addition to the health risks that athletes who dope subject themselves to when they exceed the safe dosages of illicit drugs, they also risk 2-year suspensions from competition if they test positive for doping. While there are certainly many athletes who reject doping and instead rely on their hard work, dedication, and technique to excel at sport, there are also athletes who turn to performance enhancing substances and practices if they are convinced doing so will bring them one step closer to obtaining world records and Olympic gold medals. Several prominent women athletes have produced positive doping tests in recent years. These include Irish swimmer Michelle Smith at the 1996 summer Olympics, Russian cross-country skiers Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina at the 2002 winter Olympics, and US track stars Kelli White, Chryste Gaines, Michelle Collins, and Regina Jacobs following the divulgence of files by the BALCO nutritional supplement company in These women’s use of performance enhancing drugs has negated all of their athletic accomplishments and prevented them from obtaining endorsement and sponsorship deals. Before a woman athlete tests positive for doping, there are often rumours within the sport that she is doping due to visible changes in her appearance and extraordinarily fast improvements in the world rankings. Prior to Michelle Smith’s and over 40 Chinese swimmers’ bans from elite swimming competitions, they demonstrated dramatic increases in their performance and appeared “manly.” As a result of using performance enhancing drugs, female athletes’ bodies often undergoes several striking changes. See figures 1 and 2. Doped athletes tend to possess narrow hips, small breasts, and muscular backs, legs, arms and shoulders. Athletes who take drugs containing testosterone also exhibit severe acne, deep voices, and substantial amounts of facial and pubic hair. Quintessentially, they begin to look and sound like men. Figure 1: Irish swimmer Michelle Smith Figure 2: Members of the Chinese national swimming team These physiological changes lead to the perception that women in sport who possess male physical characteristics are unnatural, ugly, and abnormal. See figure 3. In contrast, the perception of the male body following performance enhancing drug use is that of strength and power, not ugliness and unnaturalness. People typically consider a male athlete caught doping a cheater, whereas in the same circumstance, a female athlete is considered a freak in addition to a cheater. Feminist philosopher Iris Young astutely observes that many people believe that if a woman succeeds at sport, she either demonstrates male characteristics and is not really a woman, or succeeds in an event that is not a real sport (1988: 336). Thus, the media often represents women who use drugs in sport as manly freaks or not real athletes. If women athletes to do not conform to this ideal, the media ostracizes them and labels them as unfeminine and manly. In order to help illustrate this claim refer to the figure 3. The upshot of examining this dichotomy is to help demonstrate the notion that there is much more to the issue of women doping than health factors and perversion of sport arguments. Women athletes, unlike their male counterparts, seem to face more social stigmatizations when it comes to doping practices. Bodybuilding provides an interesting example of this dichotomy because women bodybuilders must possess a significant degree of muscularity yet maintain an image of femininity. Philosopher Ken Saltman argues bodybuilding reinforces popular perceptions of “real men” and “real women” (1998: 48). Women bodybuilders require incredible amounts of muscle mass to be successful, yet to compete at the highest level they must also project a feminine look. The pornography magazine Playboy has published a special issue entitled “Playboy’s Hard Bodies,” where “buff beauties” were photographed in submissive poses as sexy soft women who sport stiletto heels and bikinis (a stereotypical feminine ideal look) (50- 51). See figure 4. It seems that female bodybuilders can be muscular and achieve a certain level of “rippleness” yet they must adopt appropriate gender norms. One could argue that the only way female bodybuilders can gain acceptance is to mimic stereotypical pornography icons (makeup, large hair, bikinis, high heels and ultimately be captured as submissive and “sexy”). Figure 3: Media representation of elite women weightlifters Figure 4: A bodybuilder in a submissive pose The newest threat to upholding and maintaining the spirit of sport comes from the possibility of gene doping. Gene transfer researchers are beginning to transfer therapeutic genes into animals and humans with success, and many of these procedures show signs of enhancing athleticism in addition to the therapeutic benefits for which they were created. Gene therapies might produce performance enhancing effects in athletes by expressing genes that add muscle mass, strengthen existing muscle, produce energy more efficiently, and deliver more oxygen to the muscles, amongst other adaptations. Undergoing a therapeutic gene transfer with the intention of enhancing athletic performance constitutes gene doping in sport. Athletes looking for innovative and virtually undetectable means of doping could conceivably utilize gene doping to improve their athletic performances. Gene transfer researchers speculate that by the 2008 summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, athletes will be competing with altered and enhanced genes. Several women athletes may opt to undergo this type of procedure to increase their likelihood of winning Olympic gold medals and to demonstrate the superiority of their nations. Thus, with the addition of gene doping to a doper’s repertoire of possible performance enhancing practices, doping in sport has the potential to spiral out of control. The consequences this might produce for women’s elite sport and girls and women’s participation in sport are unforeseeable and distressing.