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Towards A Sociology Of Drugs In Sport

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Discuss Towards a sociology of drugs in sport?




The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) is a government authority that regulates the use of drugs in the sphere of sports (Shannon, 2002). This authority was established in 2006 after replacing the Australian Sports Drug Agency (Healey, 1999). The primary work of the agency includes testing, education, investigation, presentation of cases in tribunals, recommendations of sanctions and also monitoring of the different sport organizations (Robinson, 2007). In the year 2013, the powers of the authority were increased with the introduction of the Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2013. With the introduction of the Bill civil penalties were incorporated.

The same year itself the sports world in Australia was astound by the revelation by an investigation conducted by the Australian Crime Commission. The investigation showed that sportsmen has been regularly using a wide variety of performance improving drugs while playing and the investigation also revealed that the sportsmen have been connected to match fixing and also organized crimes in the country. The investigation conducted was for a period of twelve years and it created a connecting link between drugs and sports. The investigative agency stated that these organized crime networks are connected with the distribution of drugs to the athletes and also to the staff that includes the doctors and coaches of the sportspersons. Some other restricted substances that include peptides, hormones and other forms of illicit drugs have also been widely used by the professional athletes. The Crime Commission has further stated that there was no such code that has remained free from this scandal. Sometimes the drugs that were administered to the players were yet to be authorized to be used by humans. The investigation states that these doping activities are generally run by the doctors, scientists, coaches, pharmacists and also the support staffs. The organized crimes include the distribution of the drugs and match-fixing scandals. It was after this revelation that the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority was given more powers so that the entire process of further investigation could be carried out without any hindrance.

This study reflects the incidents relating to the drug crimes relating to sports and examines this sociological behavior in light of the book ‘The Sociological Imagination’ by American sociologist C. Wright Mills (Mills, 1959).

Mills in this book on sociological imagination states that the primary objective of studying sociology and for the sociologists is to articulate the various links that exist between the individual social environment and the broader historical and social compulsions where they are entrapped (Keen, 1999). Hence it can be construed that the approach followed by Mills is a structural and functionalist approach and it assists in opening new positions for individuals to live in the wider social framework


Critical Analysis

Mills states that the individual function in a wide aspect of the social structure which is considered to be an important part. However, this cannot be considered as the most important thing in this sphere (Mills, 1959). Further the scholar ahs also described the adverse effects of malaise that he considered to be as minutely rooted in the maintenance of the modern societies. In the book Mill further questions how individuals exist in the societies in the simple manner in which ‘individuals’ are generally understood.

While scripting the book of The Sociological Imagination, the author tried to merge the two distinct and theoretical concepts of social reality. These two elements are the society and the individual. He further challenged the prevailing sociological communication and attempted to define some of the most fundamental terms and directly questioned the grounds behind its explanations. Mills further attempted reconciliation and challenged the ‘grand theory’ and ‘abstracted empiricism’ (De Maio, 2013). He criticized the use of these theories and its relevance in the present day study on sociology.

Mills concept of sociological imagination can be applied to a number of cases. To explain this imagination an example can be considered. Coffee is a drink with caffeine. However in most parts of the world it is not considered to be a drug. Caffeine is a drug that can have effect and stimulate the brain. Also it needs to be mentioned that it is this reason that in most cases people opt for coffee instead of any other drink (Kubát, 1971). In most of the western countries coffee is not considered to be drug but there are some cultures where it is considered as drug. On the other hand marijuana is another drug that is not accepted in those very countries where coffee is accepted. Further there are countries where coffee is prohibited but marijuana is accepted. Hence through these examples Mills tries to depict that all the social structures can never be the same.

Scholar Parsons had described that what the nature of the societal structure would be how the culture would be created and maintained by the individuals in the society. This description by Parsons was widely criticized by Mills (Mills, 2000). He had stated that this particular tendency of the sociologists to maintain the social structure in accordance to the individuals is highly incorrect. He states that the society needs to be more heterogeneous with more room for all varieties of individuals and it is through this wide and heterogeneous society will it be possible to form a single and uniform society.

Relying on this book of Mills, the recent 2013 cases on drugs in Australian sports may be dealt. Through the views of Mills it can be stated that the abuse of drugs may be considered from a different perspective (Mills, 1959). The use of medication ad such related drugs are often permitted by the sports authority. However, when the same kinds of drugs are taken by the sportsperson without the authorization of the medical team then generally they fall under doping (Connor, 2009). Also it needs to be mentioned that sometimes these drugs are administered to the sportsperson by the coaches and the doctors themselves. Hence it can be construed that the society has different perspectives depending on the different situations even though the root cause may be the same (Shanahan and Macmillan, 2008). Further the drugs that are used, some of them are permitted in some countries and prohibited in some other countries. Applying the sociological imagination theory it can be seen that the heterogeneous society that Mills was talking about actually does not exist in most countries which includes Australia.

Mills in the book has further criticized the social order that was proposed by Parsons. He criticized specifically the idea based on which Parsons had stated that the order in the society can be observed as a whole (Mills, 1959). Mills opines that each and every person cannot totally integrate in any given society and be able to accept all the cultural rules in the society (Mills, 1959). Additionally, if such a thing exists in the society it can be considered as a domination of the extended powers.

This theory of Mills fits appropriately in this particular case of drug abuse by the Australian sportspersons (Wagner, 1991). It shows even knowing though each and every individual is not similar the authorities intend to inflict the laws on the individuals. As Mills state that these cultural symbols do not give a chance to the individuals to be self determined and hence it cannot be considered to be extracted from the individuals and their consciousness (Mills, 1959). Going according to Parson’s theory on social order the society is based on the system of belief. This theory is critical with regard to the diverse changes in the society. 

Therefore, it can be stated that if the theories of Mills is followed then whether the sportsperson who is being considered as the culprit may simply be considered as a different person with different needs (Mills, 1959). Hence Mills is observed to be creating a society that is three dimensional. Scholars state that they have Mills have tried to break down the division existing between the private and the public territories of the society. This is the typical characteristic of society in most of the times.


As concluding remarks it can be stated that the present investigations and cases on the sportsperson in Australia may be viewed from a totally different point of view which is through the eyes of American sociologist C. Wright Mills (Mills, 1959). In the study of sociological imagination the author and sociologist has attempted to form a different conception of people who cannot be classified under the general categories that has been set by the society. Society generally happens to punish those people who do not follow the general norms and go against these norms to live their lives according to their own terms (Sport and society, 2001). Mills has stated that society needs to incorporate each and every individual and hence the society should be broad enough to incorporate all such individuals. Mills had tried to view society as both a microscopic and macroscopic generally and these try to link with the present realities in society.



Connor, J. (2009). Towards a sociology of drugs in sport. Sport in Soc., 12(3), pp.327-328.

De Maio, F. (2013). Regression Analysis and the Sociological Imagination. TEST, 36(2), pp.52-57.

Healey, K. (1999). Drugs in sport. Balmain, N.S.W.: Spinney Press.

Keen, M. (1999). Stalking the sociological imagination. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Kubát, D. (1971). Paths of sociological imagination. New York: Gordon and Breach.

Mills, C. (1959). The sociological imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mills, C. (2000). The Promise', in The Sociological Imagination. Oxford University Press, pp.3-24.

Robinson, D. (2007). Drugs in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 41(3), pp.182-183.

Shanahan, M. and Macmillan, R. (2008). Biography and the sociological imagination. New York: W.W. Norton.

Shannon, M. (2002). Drugs in Australia. Carlton, Vic.: Binara Publishing.

Sport and society. (2001). Annual review of sociology, 27, pp.187-212.

Wagner, J. (1991). Enhancement of Athletic Performance with Drugs. Sports Medicine, 12(4), pp.250-265.


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