Monday, February 2, 2009

Doping and Australian Professional Cycling: Attitudes, Issues and a Pathway to a New Approach.

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Submission to the Commonwealth Department of Health Anti Doping Research Program by Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law

Project Summary

Cycling has a reputation as having an entrenched doping culture existing within a closed community where some bending of the rules has been seen as historically permissible, if not required in order to cope with the exceptional nature of its events. The closed nature of the peloton is regarded as being one of the greatest challenges for any intervention initiated from the outside (see Dauncey, 2003; Schneider, 2006). The objective of this research is to examine the attitudes of Australia professional cyclists ("the Australian peloton") and those that they interact with including team managers and staff, sporting and medical advisors, sporting administrators, sponsors and government (“their cohort”). This research is critical given the current doping policy paradigm, its operation, effectiveness and limitations. This study seeks to identify factors which lead to the current anti doping regime to be less effective than desired and to propose practical measures to increase that effectiveness.

Currently the Australian peloton includes at least 30 members racing in European based professional teams and another 80 members riding in continental professional teams outside of Europe. In 2007, Australia was ranked 3rd in the world and 4th following the 2008 World Championships. Given the long history of interaction between professional cycling in Australia and the rest of the world, particularly Europe, the Australia peloton provides an experienced but manageable sized group with which to engage in order to undertake such a project. Furthermore, given the history of interaction with Europe and other parts of the cycling world, there is nothing to suggest that the Australia situation vis a vis doping and attitudes to anti-doping policy are any different within the Australian peloton than any other highly ranked cycling nation.

Over the past decade the sport has been subjected to a number of internal crises and increasing external scrutiny. Nevertheless the problem of doping and how effectively to deal with it remain an important and unresolved issue. The last ten years have seen increased scrutiny of professional cycling, in a large part due to the events of the 1998 Tour de France involving the Festina and other teams. In fact this event is in part credited with the movement towards the formation of WADA. More recently there has been the Operacion Puerto enquiry in Spain, and the successive problems associated with the last three editions of the Tour de France (2006 – Landis; 2007 – Rasmussen, Vinokourov, Mayo; 2008 - Kohl, Schumacher, Ricco & Piepoli) which have raised the issue as to the effectiveness of current anti doping policy and its attempts at changing behaviour in relation to doping practices within cycling.

The observations of Schneider (2006) concerning the closed nature of the peloton as a barrier to change are enlightening in the context of the developments of anti-doping policy over the last 10 years. During this time outside intervention has taken the form of criminal investigations, the development of a World Anti Doping Agency and Code, the changing nature and frequency of testing within cycling and the development of biological passports. As can be seen from this brief list, anti doping policy has been concerned primarily with detection, investigation, prosecution and punishment. In short, anti doping has been a policing activity, and as such it appears to have failed to engage those who are the objects of that activity, nor has it led to broad cultural change within the sport. It is arguable that these measures have in fact contributed towards the peloton becoming even more closed and as a result incapable of fully grasping the nature of the changes occurring within the sport.

Without engaging cyclists (other than as objects of surveillance and prosecution) it is arguable that it is becoming evident to sporting administrators that the current anti doping policy pursued within the sport of cycling is not as effective as it could be and has not as yet led to widespread cultural change of attitudes within the peloton. Without more education it is arguable that such a policy is unsustainable. This is compounded when it is noted that a great deal of the current policy has been formulated as a result of media and related crises within cycling. Schneider (2006) has remarked that the history of the nature of the problem of doping in cycling is constructed in large part from the extensive media coverage of it. As a result of policy being media or crisis driven it appears that little sociological or legal research has been undertaken which considers the relationship between those who are the object of this policing and those who are doing the policing.

Due to the forces of globalisation there are real processes occurring which interact with and effect the development of elite sport policy globally. The current context and changes occurring within professional cycling may well be characterised as processes of structural re-adjustment whereby the old European based cycling economy is being subjected to the pressures of the globalisation of the sport. Anti-doping policy and the fact that cycling is in the ‘eye of the storm’ has to be viewed within this context. These factors not only include the substantive policy framework in terms of an increasingly global anti doping legislative regime but also the discursive construction of those processes within subsystems, communities and the media. As both Houlihan (2005) and Schneider (2006) have noted to some extent, it is the discursive constructions that tend to shape and mediate policy production processes. Dauncey (2003) has also recognised that cycling has a particularly complicated normative framework or frameworks. He has identified at least four normative frameworks that constrain and direct participation in an event such as the Tour de France including the rules of the race, the rules of society, culture and politics, international views on sports and ethics and the internal rules of the peloton itself. Within these frameworks there exist a number of groups that form a broad policy community or communities. However, not all actors within the purview of such communities are able to openly voice their concerns within such a community, especially when one of those policy communities, the peloton, seeks to protect its interests through silence.

In undertaking this research the project will adopt and apply the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) developed by Houlihan (2005) in his work on elite sports policy development. The ACF framework will also be informed by practice, context and the notions of reflexive sociology pursued by Bourdieu (1992, 1990). The ACF focuses upon identifying the dominant policy paradigms that set the parameters for any policy change and the discursive story lines or rationales of those involved in or affected by policy development. Finally the ACF model proposes the concept of policy brokerage in order to engage those involved in and affected by policy changes in order to achieve the neatest possible marriage between the rhetoric of the policy and the reality of the practice it seeks to address.

Full Text of Submission

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