Empire and the Sporting Body

"Empire is formed not on the basis of force itself but on the basis of the capacity to present force as being in the service of right and peace" (Hardt and Negri, Empire, p.15).

Can we suggest, to paraphrase Hardt and Negri, that WADA is constituted not on the basis of its ability to force athletic subjects to comply to a particular body composition or to disclose personal whereabouts at all times, but on the basis of its capacity to present these intrusions as necessary to preserve the truth claims and fair play dictates of modern sport?

Empire is formed and its intervention becomes juridically legitimate only when it is already inserted into the chain of international consensuses aimed at resolving existing conflicts. … [T]he expansion of Empire is rooted in the internal trajectory of the conflicts it is meant to resolve. The first task of Empire, then, is to enlarge the realm of the consensuses that support its own power (p.15).

Existing conflicts, in this case, meaning the global contestation for athletic supremacy, which in turn is connected to the political promotion of sovereign nation-states as well as the flows of capital that may accrue to the victors of such athletic contests. Significantly in the context of Empire, after receiving its first two years of funding directly from a sporting body (the Olympic Movement), WADA is currently funded by nation-state governments as well as the Olympic Movement. In 2001, the governments of United Nations member countries agreed to fund half of WADA's budget by means of a regional formula to determine contributions. The governments within each region mutually agree upon the final individual contribution of each nation-state.

And sporting organizations connected to these nation-states are signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code: 203 out of 203 National Olympic Committees have signed on, which is perhaps not surprising given the IOC connection. Several hundred other international sports organizations have also accepted the WADA code.

But it is in "enlarging the realm of the consensuses that support its own power" that we see further evidence of WADA-as-Empire: Dick Pound, chief of the agency, has publicly and privately pressured MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL players and owners to accept the WADA code and stamp out what he perceives to be a major problem in professional sport. He has had indirect success by convincing U.S. politicians to introduce two legislative bills making doping practices in sport illegal: the Clean Sports Act and the Drug Free Sports Act. While neither bill ultimately became law, this should be considered significant in terms of the indirect approaches that may be used in a decentralized mesh of power to achieve goals.

It will be interesting to follow how WADA-as-Empire continues its campaign of hygiene against universal contagion, featuring pure, truthful, and policed bodies being contaminated by polluted, cheating, and unlawful bodies.


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