bloodIt was Magic Johnson who provided the moment when blood entered the North American sportocratic zeitgeist. Before that time urine had been used for doping tests, though it was a substance viewed as excretory, or an external waste byproduct of the body athletic. When Magic tested positive for HIV in 1991, on the other hand, at a time of mass hysteria, ignorance and/or misinformation about Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome, his blood — not excretory, but still circulatory — became the object of frantic concern:

Is it possible that Magic is gay?
Could our blood mix in the hardwood fray?
Should he be allowed to return to play?
I say, No Way … not in my NBA.

Of course, Magic did return to the NBA and provide the perfect Hollywood ending to the HIV story when he shone in the 1992 All-Star Game, notching 25 points and 9 assists to take home the MVP award.

From that time forward, however, the blood of an athlete became permissible as an object of information that could be rendered visible for all to see.

This is not to suggest that blood had never been a part of sport previously. To the contrary, some amount of blood spilled during an athletic contest has always appealed to a particular form of masculinity, and for that blood to be on your person, whether it originally belonged to you or your opponent, was a mark of manhood, a badge to be worn proudly rather than with fear. Today's athletes, on the other hand, must wear their blood type like a scarlet letter.

While blood doping and blood sampling for anti-doping purposes was quietly making its presence known in the late 1980s, it was Magic's "contamination" that ultimately normalized this invasion of the body to ensure the truth component of competition. Today, the World Anti-Doping Agency has declared it legal to draw samples of blood from an athlete to ensure the purification of the body from which it was removed.


4 responses to Blood

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  1. Melanie Parkin says:

    As mentioned, Magic may have been the catalyst to blood entering the world of elite sport but for better or worse, it was there before and it's here to stay. Blood has ususally been seen as a negative thing in sport whether it be through blood testing of banned substances, blood doping itself, or blood coming out in a game/match showing aggrssion in sport but through the use of blood, some positive things have come into play as well. Without the use of blood testing, physiologists could not test for lactate levels which have been used as a tool to enhance endurance sport. Without the use of blood to test, sport would not be a fair playing field becaue urine can't test for all substances, and finally, without blood donors, inevitably, there are athletes out there that wouldn't be alive. So I don't believe that blood should be seen as having a negative impact on sports today, I think we just need to be very careful about the way that we handle issues surrounding it.

  2. Jennica Gilmore says:

    I don't see there being a problem with normalizing the extraction of blood from athletes for anti-doping purposes. WADA needed a way to ensure that competing athletes are not doping or taking performance enhancing drugs and this method proved to be the most efficient and accurate way to do this. I think it unfortunate that this method was adopted after Magic's "contamination." However, if Magic had not gone public about being positive or had never been diagnosed as positive at all, it wouldn't have been long before WADA adopted such a practice to test athletes.

  3. Kate Verheyen says:

    First urine samples, now blood…This makes me question the extent to which WADA will go in the future to stop doping in sport. Where is the line drawn between ethical and unethical testing in athletes? Not only is blood sampling time consuming, and costly, but it is also invasive, and under any other circumstance within our society, this would most undoubtedly be seen as a violation of our human rights. I suppose this is the price one pays for pursuing an athletic career, however, taking blood samples to detect doping is one thing, but publicly announcing that one is HIV positive is a whole different story. I feel that if blood samples are absolutely necessary within our society in order to crack down on doping in sport, that WADA should be required to treat athletes with a similar form of respect that doctors are required to uphold with their patients. The doctor-patient relationship holds that doctors are responsible to maintain complete confidentiality regarding the health and well-being of their patients. I think WADA should adopt this relationship to an extent that if an athlete tests positive for HIV, it should remain confidential and left in the hands of the athlete as to whether or not it goes public.

  4. Kerrie Nagy says:

    It is understandable that the World Anti Doping Agency would want complete access to the blood of athletes, especially since it now has become a domain of illegal performance enhancement. However, I would be interested to hear how they define "the purification of the body". Is this their way of saying that athletes with blood disorders, such as Magic Johnson, are consided impure? Are they classified with athletes that reinject their own blood for an advantage against the competition? Pureness of one's body has now become subjective in nature to those who are high on the heirarchical chain of power. It is not fair to say that these individuals with HIV or AIDS should be treated with any less respect than other athletes, and their "impurities" should in no way be compared to those athletes who falsify their performance with drugs and other substances.

    In addition, I also disagree with these athlete's blood profiles being exposed to the media and pubic. There is no reason for a media uproar unless someone has commited a crime of substance use. Using the knowledge of Magic's blood condition is a dirty way for the media to create news. Blood passports make logical sense when athletes are continually tested in sports such as cycling, but this information should remain as confidential as any other doctor's visit.