The Realization of Control

Listening to Greg Jackson's presentation this weekend at the Queen's Macintosh Conference, I was reminded of WADA's comprehensive policy against adding code to the body, or against methods such as removing blood from the body, oxygenating it, and re-inserting it. But more importantly, I was reminded that world-level athletes must continually notify the WADA authorities of their whereabouts (up to 365 days a year) so that they may be summoned for a drug test at any time.

What is the athlete's responsibility regarding whereabouts information?

An athlete identified in the registered testing pool by his/her ADO [anti-doping organization] is required to provide accurate and current whereabouts information. This information is usually required on a quarterly basis, although ADOs may have specific requirements, and updates are required if the athlete's plans change.

Whereabouts information may include details such as home address, work schedule, training venues and schedule, and competition schedule — anything which will help a Doping Control Officer (DCO) find the athlete on any given day.

International or national level athletes identified in a registered testing pool are responsible under the Code for providing whereabouts information to their ADO. Failure to do so in accordance with ADO anti-doping regulations may be considered an anti-doping rule violation and may result in a sanction.

I would like to juxtapose against this a quote from Virilio that I have cited earlier:

Until the Second World War — until the concentration camps — societies were societies of incarceration, of imprisonment in the Foucauldian sense. The great transparency of the world, whether through satellites or simply tourists, brought about an overexposure of these places to observation, to the press and public opinion which now ban concentration camps. You can't isolate anything in this world of ubiquity and instantaneousness. Even if some camps do still exist, this overexposure of the world led to the need to surpass enclosure and imprisonment. This required the promotion of another kind of repression, which is disappearance.

In the context of high-performance athletics, we might say that the overexposed athletic body, both externally, in terms of its global position, and internally, in terms of its chemical composition, prefigures the telos of total control. We might also say, in following Virilio's logic, that the threat of disappearance comes from the disgraced few that are caught being erased from the archives/record books as if their performance never existed.

(On a side note, the Canadian troika of Pound, Johnson and Dubin appear to bear a significant responsibility in contributing to the sporting realization of the control society.)


Recent thoughts on the 100-metre dash:

Starting gun

The sprint begins with the firing of the starter's pistol. This means that the race begins with a sound, which is translated into the athlete's body movement and the start of the electronic race clock.

Starting blocks

The starter determines if there has been a false start with the aid of pressure sensors in the starting blocks that measure if a suitable number of milliseconds have passed before the athlete launches forward. That is, false starts are adjudicated by touch and a model of appropriate human reaction times.

Finish line

The winner of the race is determined visually as the athletes cross the finish line. However, given the speed of the runners and the precision required to accurately assess the victor, assistance is provided by a photo-camera mechanism that is connected to the electronic timing system. Thus, it is the archive that is required to establish the Truth of this particular sporting event in determining the winner.

*     *     *

Earlier, I described how Rosie Ruiz had permeated the enclosure of the Boston Marathon, and the subsequent technological innovations (RFID chips, networked digital cameras) that had been introduced to prevent such an incident from occurring again. The implication was that the standard surveillant gaze Foucault analyzed in the prison, school, factory, etc. was not scalable to larger spaces, and as such was an incomplete strategy of control.

This quick glance at the other end of the running spectrum — the sprint — suggests that as speeds increase and precision becomes more requisite — that is, an application of Virilio's dromological thinking — the surveillant gaze breaks down once again. Touch, as McLuhan's "interplay between the senses", becomes necessary to complete the control solution.

Thus, we may see that both spatial and temporal vulnerabilities in discipline yield to Deleuze's society of control.

Warmest Wishes

When I wrote the column on SportsFilter first articulating the idea for Global Village Basketball, Sports Illustrated's Alexander Wolff was kind enough to drop me a note of encouragement. While my words don't carry a fraction of the experience and legitimacy that his do, now that he is launching his own ABA basketball franchise in Vermont, I wanted to send him my best wishes as well.

Best of luck to you Mr. Wolff … I just hope Frost Heaves doesn't prove to be an omen for cold three-point shooting. ;)


Since I was discussing cheerleaders anyways, now seems like a good time to highlight the branding of body parts in Dallas (click and rollover to see).

Old Glory, New Story

Now, I haven't seen footage from the 1966 NCAA championship basketball game between Texas Western and Kentucky, but from what I do know of ball in that era, it was a pretty 2-dimensional, ground-bound game (ie. not much dunking, much less reverse dunking). I also don't think there was much in the way of behind-the-back or alley-oop passing off the glass during the college games of that era, either.

Yet all of the above appear in the TV commercial and official trailer for the movie Glory Road, which pays tribute to Texas Western's all-black starting five and is coming soon to a theatre near you, courtesy of the Walt Disney Company.

Did Disney feel they needed to "blackify" the basketball action scenes to make Glory Road more "authentic" and/or marketable? How can we juxtapose this with the movie's implicit message that that was then and today we live in a purportedly post-racial America?

What is the difference between creative license in an artistic work and historical revisionism? Does the answer to that question change given the racial overtones involved?

Jerry Bruckheimer, "Mr. Blockbuster" and Glory Road's producer, has been quoted on IMDB as saying: "We are in the transportation business. We transport audiences from one place to another."

In this case, he apparently neglects to mention that you have to ride at the back of the bus on the way there.

The Narcosis of Gambling?

From NOW Magazine's Year in Review issue:

Why Poker Craze May End Up Costing Society More Than Drugs

"Studies in animals have clearly shown that the amount of dopamine released by natural rewards is dependent on the level of predictability of the reward. In gambling, the reward is unpredictable, which means it has a particularly strong impact on dopamine release." — David Zald, psychologist and neuroscience professor, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee