Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Ideas

Project Summary.

The project will examine the links between:

• athlete education and anti-doping;
• a sustainable career structure, job security, and anti-doping; and
• the social organisation and norms of the peloton and anti-doping.

Issues brought to light during research undertaken on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health & Ageing by Deakin University (2009 “Doping and Australian Professional Cycling”) have included career structure, post career planning and opportunities and education as factors influencing decisions not to engage in practices that contravene anti-doping law and policy.

In our current project we have undertaken a number of semi-structured interviews with both members of the peloton and their cohort. An objective of these semi-structured interviews has been to ascertain the 'discursive storylines' that cyclists and their cohort identify with in order to comply or not with the objectives of anti-doping policy. Semi-structured interviews are valuable as a qualitative method of research and through the adoption of co-research techniques they also become tools for education and the self examination of those interviewed. The current project has informed the view that these storylines are as much a part of the rules of competition and structures and systems that set the limits to policy action, both by defining activities that are acceptable and those that are not. The norms embedded in existing cultures and structures are emerging as more significant than the actual anti-doping codes and other legislative instruments designed to thwart doping in cycling.

Throughout the semi-structured interviews a number of common themes have arisen by which cyclists and their cohort rationalise their anti-doping choices. On formulating this proposal for the 2010 ADRP round of grants we have preliminarily identified certain rationales of the cyclists as being fruitful areas of further research. The aim of further research is to build upon our current work and to make further contributions to the development of a sustainable anti-doping policy in cycling. The rationales and themes identified are not entirely consistent with the existing dominant policy rationales but are capable of being mapped onto the institutional rationales in a meaningful and productive manner. They include:

• the need to ensure and protect the job security and sustainability of an athlete's career;
• the need to protect the job security of fellow athletes and team staff such as directors, masseurs and mechanics;
• the desire to support oneself, and one’s family economically;
• the desire of the athlete to feel that their sporting achievements are genuine without doubts as to the manner in which they are achieved;
• the role and relevance of the social nature of the peloton as a group and as a regulatory mechanism; and
• the need to preserve the integrity of the individual athlete's and their family’s health.

Project Description.


The project will examine the links between:
• athlete education and anti-doping;
• a sustainable career structure, job security, and anti-doping; and
• the social organisation and norms of the peloton and anti-doping.
In exploring the links between career structure, job security, education and anti-doping we will investigate:
• the role and need for education as a preventative measure in anti-doping policy;
• the role of career structure and post athlete careers as a preventative measure in anti-doping policy; and
• the role of the peloton’s social sense and norms as a preventative and enforcement measure in anti-doping law and policy.

In particular we will:

• explore the relationship between internal team anti-doping, training and medical programs and reporting, the biological passport and the collegiality of the peloton as viable and sustainable anti-doping mechanisms;
• explore the links between the peloton as a community, the place and role of broader education and mechanisms that may lead to greater job security and sustainability of a cyclist’s career;
• explore interrelationships between the peloton, education, career structure, contractual arrangements and anti-doping sanctions;
• explore the relevance of an ethics and the care of the self approach (both individual and community) and its place as a source of normalising ethics for the peloton;
• explore ways in which the athlete can be prioritised as a person instead of, solely focused on winning, and whether this changes the nature of the problem and its regulation; and
• explore ways in which anti-doping and sports policy in general may be further configured around the ideas of building the character and value systems of professional cyclists.
We will test the hypothesis that:
• first, the relationship between education, career structure, community norms, contractual arrangements and anti-doping sanctions determine doping behaviour; and,
• second, that a focus on these factors can alter, reduce or eliminate doping.


The Social Aspect of the Cycling Peloton.

Semi-structured interviews conducted as a part of our current project have identified the peloton as a group or a community. References to the peloton include that it has its own internal control mechanisms based upon what was described as a feeling of “solidarity”, “mateship”, “camaraderie” and “brotherhood” whereby actions that were deemed to be unacceptable or inconsistent with the ethics of professional cycling were regulated by other members of the peloton. The following extract from the interviews illustrates this point.

The community aspect of professional cycling is probably one of the powerful things that people don't realise, for instance in terms of moral sanctioning, or sanctioning against stupid acts in the peloton … so there is quite a strong cohesive kind of morality that floats through the peloton because if you do something stupid that causes injury to one of the riders or some other team you are actually threatening their ability to earn a living, to support their family … so it is quite heavily sanctioned … against unnecessary stupidness … and the other thing is that whether you are the smallest or the biggest rider in the peloton everybody has to go through the same hills and do the same kilometres, so there’s quite an egalitarian kind of good will that reigns in the peloton and that’s one of the very enjoyable things about it.

Bird and Wagner (1997) have commented upon the role of collegiality in enforcing norms in sport and as mechanisms that may be utilised to limit and overcome collective self damage or injury to a sport through rule violation such as doping practices. We seek to revisit the remarks of these authors in the light of our current project with the view of further exploring the relationship between internal team training and medical programs and reporting, the biological passport and the collegiality of the peloton as anti-doping mechanisms.

Collegiality is one aspect of community form, the other of which is what may be called the organisational milieu (adapted from the classic article by W R Rosengren, 1964; see also Dishan Kundar, 2002). The milieu is organisationally distinct from the normative bureaucracy adopting instead a flattened authority and communication structure which affects decision making of the subjects to each other and themselves. Beyond this it may refer to the informal mechanism of governance and self-governance arising spontaneously and collectively within the group and promoting norms of collective self-fashioning counterbalancing the individualistic ethos of competition. Rather than the organisation holding the subject in ‘custody’, the milieu and its process allows subjects to define themselves as full participants.

Another quote from the current project helps illustrate this link:
I think possibly that cyclists start to realise that actually the sport has been threatened, their income has been threatened by this … and the expectation that they could carry on as before … I hope it has because the riders do seem to accept that all these things (the anti-doping controls) … they seem to be accepting the impositions of all, that this is what they need to do to pursue this sport. Basically it (the choice to dope or not) is an economic decision.
In the light of this we seek to explore the links between the peloton as a community, the place and role of broader education and mechanisms that may lead to greater job security and sustainability of a cyclist’s career and contribute to an effective and sustainable anti-doping policy.

Education and Career Structure.

It is possible to estimate that over the past 10 to 15 years over 500 riders have passed through the ranks of the elite and professional cycling in Australia. Of these, the anecdotal evidence we have collected as part of our current project suggests that only about six riders (or less than 1%) have moved into the AUD $1,000,000 plus salary bracket. Many others have not even approached this figure during the entire length of their careers. Indeed, teams may offer no guaranteed or minimum wage, and riders frequently are non-salaried (receiving only material support in the form of the tools of their trade), or have ‘bought’ their own contracts with the hope of capitalising on the ‘investment’ in their careers.
We have heard comments from older and retired riders that they left the sport with very little income or savings to support themselves in their post cycling careers. Similarly, many riders have told us that on leaving the sport they did not possess the relevant skills necessary to start a new working career. Educational support for them during their cycling careers has been unavailable, inadequate or not tailored to the demands of their existence.

Lentillon-Kaestner and Carstairs (2009) emphasise the need to understand “the link between doping and sporting careers” (p.1). They also note that to reduce doping use, it is important for cyclists to maintain relationships outside cycling and to have something else besides cycling, such as studies (p.8).

In his work on economics, corruption and doping Maenning (2002), identifies various factors or behavioural determinants affecting micro economic calculations and doping. These include income, moral qualms and short and long-term health risks. He further identifies “variables such as intelligence, age, education, wealth and family background as being included in the explanation of whether an individual has recourse to illicit behaviour” (p. 63).

For our purposes Maenning’s comments in relation to education and morals (or ethics) are revealing where he noted, “an individual who is less educated and talented … is more likely to choose an illegal course of action. Individuals with extensive moral qualms … reject illegal behaviour across a greater range of realizations of the other variables.” (p. 63). Maenning also noted that “the supply of illicit behaviour will be determined by the distribution of ethical values within the population.” (p. 63).

One consistently thematised aspect of the research (Deakin 2009) has been the interviewees’ concern about the relationship between the lack of adequate post career financial planning (e.g. pension or superannuation schemes or the like for professional cyclists) and the choices made in relation to doping.

We seek to test the hypothesis that:

- first, the relationship between education, career structure, community norms, contractual arrangements and anti-doping sanctions determine doping behaviour; and,
- second, that a focus on these factors can alter, reduce or eliminate doping.
We have developed these hypotheses in the light of comments made by interviewees in our current project concerning the need for job security and adequate post career planning.

Norms, Morals, Ethics and anti-doping.

Our interest in the social nature of the peloton as a community leads us to consider whether various ethical theories and practices can be introduced as part of the process of building character and value systems. The classic works of Plato and Aristotle on sport and society, virtue and equity, provide us with a rich starting point with which to consider these issues. More recently the work of Markula and Pringle (2006) and Hickey and Kelly (2009) introduce the concepts of the care of the self, or the ethics of self care into a sporting context.
According to Markula and Pringle morality is “a set of values and rules of action that are recommended to individuals through the intermediary of various prescriptive agencies” (p.140 ff). Any such morality can consist of two aspects: the moral code which denotes the prescriptions for ‘good’ conduct, and moral acts which denote the way individuals actually behave based upon the prescription (i.e. how carefully they follow the code). These authors generally distinguish three aspects of the moral code: it determines first which acts are forbidden, second, which behaviours have positive or negative value and, third, how the individual is supposed to constitute himself as a moral subject of his own actions. It is this third aspect that is termed an ethics. The link between education, career and ethics is at the core of our proposed study.

Sustainable change takes place in the area of ethics: the manner in which one ought to form oneself as an ethical subject in relation to the prescriptive elements of the code. As Markula and Pringle noted (p. 141), and as our current project illustrates, the individual, while obeying the general principles, can respond to the code in different ways by choosing from a variety of ways to ‘conduct oneself morally’. This process of ‘individualising’ the code or self-constitution may be divided into four ‘aspects’: the ethical substance, mode of subjection, ethical work and telos (p. 141). Another quote from the current research project illustrates the link between anti-doping and ethics:

Certainly finding a way to change that culture (through the ethical or moral development of the cyclists) is really the only sustainable option, I suspect. … what you can do is address the larger part of the bell curve about doping and maybe shift it a bit, so in fact it affects everyone anyway … so if you can shift the bulk a little bit it is much better than spending a lot of resources on the tail of the bell curve, where you only get perhaps shifting by a minority … it is much better to attack the body, or the corpus of the sport, and get some movement which in fact ends up being a large movement.

Furthermore, Arjun Appadurai (1996) suggests that sport represents a “hard cultural form” that links value, meaning and embodied practice in a way that proves difficult to break. It therefore changes those who participate in it, and is resolutely intransigent to change itself. This process is reinforced by the institutionalisation of sport. Individual athletes who learn about their bodies and therefore themselves through their participation in sport are therefore likely to maintain the ethos of their institutionalisation rather than question and recode the same cultural forms through individual reflection and choice.

What we seek to explore in the context of the work on ethics and the care of the self (both the individual and community) is whether there is a place here for re-introducing the ‘power’ of the peloton, as a source of normalising ethics for anti-doping policy in professional cycling? In the context of 'the code', that is the field of forces in which the cyclist lives and works - a set of anti-doping values promoted by governments, national and state institutes, national and international anti-doping agencies and sporting authorities; we seek to explore the relevance of the following questions in the context of a professional cyclist’s career and educational pathways:

• What aspect of these values call for the cyclists’ ethical intervention?
• Why should the cyclists engage in ethical self transformation?
• What techniques are available to the cyclists?
• What mode of being/life/existence do the cyclists aim for?

The Whole/Well Rounded Athlete.

In the interviews conducted to date we have identified that some cyclists and their teams are starting to consider sport in a much broader way than simply winning. Being well rounded, a tradesperson, craftsperson, a little bit of an artist, are themes that emerged during the interviews.

These and other indicative comments concerning the social nature of the peloton, education, career planning and anti-doping raise the question as to whether a holistic approach proposed by Petroczi and Aidman (2008) would be effective as a complementary tool alongside the current models of anti-doping policy. The holistic approach proposed by Petroczi and Aidman emphasises choices, health issues and broader life goals in order for athletes to make informed decisions about their performance enhancement, which they argue may lead – at a population level – to a sustainable change in doping behaviour.

The notion of developing the athlete holistically extends from the debate around whether elite sports should be about processes or outcomes. The idea that a happy athlete is one who performs well and is one who has more than their single (cycling) identity, with social roles in, for example, education, family and society.
This engages the ideas discussed by Houlihan (2004) that current anti-doping policy degrades the athlete by making them the object rather than the subject. In investigating career structures, education and social norms we seek to investigate ways in which anti-doping and sports policy in general could be further configured around the ideas of building the character and value systems of the athlete rather than limiting them. The question we seek to explore concerns whether if we prioritise the athlete as a person instead of, solely focused on, winning, does the nature of the problem and its regulation change?


Tasks required in relation to benchmarking athlete educational programs include to:
• identify and examine existing education systems that are in place in professional cycling;
• examine the educational models used in other professional sports;
• compare the range and scope of programs in place in other sports with those in professional cycling;
• examine whether and how it is possible to mandate compulsory education in pro cycling in the manner this has been done in other sports; and
• examine the dispersed and nomadic lifestyle of the athletes and the sport's structure.

Field Research.

Benchmarking requires desk research, field research, semi-structured interviews and meetings:
• with other sports organisations to examine existing educational programs (such as golf, cricket, the AFL, soccer and the rugby codes);
• to examine the existing institutional structures of professional cycling and their capacity to effectively deliver such programs;
• to examine the ability of such institutions to effectively intervene and influence the day to day lives of professional cyclists at different levels; and
• to undertake embedded research observing the day to day lives of cyclists (in both the race and training contexts) in order to ascertain how ongoing educational programs could be structured within the constraints of the day to day and seasonal lives of professional cyclists.

Semi-Structured Interviews.
The themes of career structure and sustainability and education and their relationship to anti-doping have been consistently raised in Deakin's current research project. Although we have asked questions, received responses and engaged in discussions around these topics, given the broad nature of our semi-structured interviews and the time available for each interview (generally between 45 minutes and 2 hours) we have not been able to pursue these topics in the depth and detail that we now believe is necessary. As such in conjunction with the planning and delivery of the pilot programs and other field work proposed herein we would seek to engage in a second set of interviews with team directors, coaches, administrators and athletes to further explore and develop these themes.

Embedded field work, semi-structured interviews and workshops are all mechanisms which allow the researcher to engage in qualitative methods of co-research. Co-research provides a process of enquiry that draws upon the complementary perspectives, skills and knowledge bases of the researchers and the practitioners of a particular area (Hartley and Benington 2000). Co-research thus recognises the perspectives of stakeholders in the production of knowledge and their understandings of their organisational milieu and ethical practices. Using techniques of co-research it is possible to engage in the generation of knowledge production and possibilities for organisational change which can be disseminated through action as well as reports to the peers of both researchers and the various stakeholders.

Preliminary and Pilot Workshops.
We propose to deliver a series of preliminary and pilot educational workshops around the research topic themes with members of the peloton and their cohort. These workshops would be delivered at training camps or in other times suitably timed within the Australian cycling season.

A preliminary sketch of possible workshop topics includes:
• Ethics, including the ethics of self and community care and ethical performance;
• Modes of communication, decision making and organisation within formal institutions and the informal structures of the cycling (peloton);
• Philosophy, ethics, virtue, equity and aesthetics of sport;
• Legal issues including anti-doping, sports law, principles of administrative law and practice;
• The economic framework of cycling in particular and in relation to other sports;
• The norms of the sport in the context of rapid commercialisation;
• The athlete as a stakeholder in, and beneficiary and trustee of, the sport;
• Financial issues and planning;
• What to look for in agents, management and sponsorship;
• Sporting and cycling cultures and social history;
• Cycling and sustainability;
• Building a sustainable sport based upon an active doping culture - “why we don't dope”;
• Anti-doping strategies as a choice for sustainability; and
• The meaning and redefining of success and professionalism in professional cycling.

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