The United States Drug Enforcement Agency has recently completed the largest performance-enhancing drug crackdown in U.S. history. 50 arrests, 26 underground labs raided, millions of dollars in cash and product seized. But it was this passage that caught my attention in Shaun Assael's ESPN article (emphasis added):

The investigation also focused on message boards where advice is traded about obtaining raw materials, as well as on the Web sites that help the labs sell finished products to the public. Hundreds of thousands of e-mails were intercepted, according to Dan Simmons, a San Diego-based special agent for the DEA. Simmons said that no professional athletes have been implicated so far but that the e-mails are being compiled into a massive database of names and are being analyzed.

. . .

In an interview, David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said that he expects to learn if the names of any athletes attempting to qualify for the Olympics are in the database. Howman said that he is working closely with the DEA, and veteran BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky of the Internal Revenue Service, to make sure that any legal hurdles are cleared so that WADA can get that access.

Does it not seem odd that WADA — a sports organization — would have this degree of access in a U.S. criminal investigation? Consider the mission statements of the three organizations:

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

"The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets."

U.S. Internal Revenue Service

"The IRS is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury and one of the world's most efficient tax administrators. In 2004, the IRS collected more than $2 trillion in revenue and processed more than 224 million tax returns. … The IRS Mission [is to p]rovide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all."

World Anti-Doping Agency

"The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the international independent organization created in 1999 to promote, coordinate, and monitor the fight against doping in sport in all its forms. Composed and funded equally by the sports movement and governments of the world, WADA coordinated the development and implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code), the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries."

* * *

While sport operates as a striated space on smaller geographical scales, we might posit the preceding as an example of the legitimization of sporting Empire in a smooth space of control.

In the passage of sovereignty toward the plane of immanence, the collapse of the boundaries has taken place both within each national context and on a global scale. The withering of civil society and the general crisis of the disciplinary institutions coincide with the decline of nation-states as boundaries that mark and organize the divisions in global rule. The establishment of a global society of control that smooths over the striae of national boundaries goes hand in hand with the realization of the world market and the real subsumption of global society under capital (Hardt & Negri, Empire, p. 332).


3 responses to Success-Excess-Access

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  1. Jessica Damiani says:

    Increased interest in today’s sporting world can be greatly attributed to the ability of athletes to break pervious world record times, thus increasing spectators and media attention. Specific agencies such as U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and World Anti-Doping Agency, as mentioned in this article, are designed and in place because society deems performance enhancing drugs and supplements to be inequitable, unhealthy and, disadvantageous to all aspects of sport. Despite their efforts many athletes do, and in my opinion will continue to take performance enhancing drugs.

    Sporting events such as the Olympics create a sense of national pride and demonstrate strength and values of a country when their athletes achieve athletic success (ie- a gold medal or a world record). As human beings we are drawn to bigger and better things; if our athletes are not advancing at the same pace as our society people lose interest. A loss of interest however could be fatal to the overall production and economy of a society. We live in a society where drug consumption has become a way of life. People within our society are constantly taking drugs to improve their daily life; we often take daily vitamins, protein bars, nutrient supplements, and prescribed and over the counter drugs. Since our athletic victories create such pride within nations how can we be shocked when athletes take drugs to enhance their performance?

    The article also states that it is quite odd that WADA, a sports organization, would have access to information regarding substance abuse among athletes when they are not privileged to other illegal involvement with athletes. For example in a criminal proceeding WADA would not have the same degree of involvement or have the same access to private information as it falls under the legal justice system of a country. This makes me very apprehensive to believe that these organizations truly believe in what they ‘stand’ for. In our society we are taught and expected to act within certain norms. One norm being that sport enhancing drugs, are ‘bad’. These agencies are centered on what society feels is acceptable and unacceptable. However due to the high demands to always make more money, sell more, buy more, become 'bigger, better and stronger', athletes feel that they must continue this trend. Performance enhancing drugs and substance abuse issues are often viewed as an individual problem; however they are created by the ideals and values of society. Athletes feel as though it is their duty to bring pride to their country and perform to the best of their ability. In some cases the athlete’s ability alone is not enough to reach the high goals that society sets out for them.

  2. Katie Ferguson says:

    As the noted, the U.S. has recently made a concentrated effort to filter out those athletes who use performance enhancing drug to get to the top. I personally have a very different perspective on how strict WADA has become in the recent years. We place strict boundaries on athletes around the world to make an attempt in making competition fair. However, it is so easy to eat or take a medication with out the intent of enhancing your performance, but it shows up on the test as a performance enhancing drug. Thus someone who took cough syrup to rid of a serious cough or decides to eat a poppy seed bagel will be penalized the same as an individual blood doping to increase blood cell counts to better their performance. Now in actuality is this fair, but how do we differentiate between what is fair and unfair? It is easily justified why we create these boundaries but there are many flaws in the system. For example, to find out a true drug test, thus eliminating the minor facts such as foods that may cause a drug test to turn out negative will take eight years. Now personally I find that to be a obscene idea. In my opinion, most people who win a gold medal and eight years later stripped of the gold medal, they have already experienced the glory and fame from winning whether or not it was legitimate or not.

    Another thought is, why are recreation drugs such as steroids seen as acceptable in society, but not for athletes? A large percentage of athletes not at the Olympic level do take performance enhancing drugs as it is very popular anymore. Therefore, these individuals are our next Olympic athletes and role models. Is we are going to band them, it is only fair that they are banded for everyone at any level of competition to implement that same fairness of competition.

  3. Josh Friesen says:

    I'm sure WADA has a very extesive definition of doping and what is considered to be an illegal action taken to gain an unfair advantage in sport. However, I also feel that the ethical sensitivity of this issue has pushed the boundaries to places that require a more extensive definition. For example we are begining to enter the realm of circular logic and contradictory perspectives that is leading to much confusion. Our society is driven by a fascination for advancement and improvement. We are demanding that our athletes engage in the most advanced training regimes, pursue the most advanced equipment and perfect their nutrional intake down to a science. Doping which follows these same philosophical principals is a very easy next step if there is even a step at all to the pursuit of increasing optimal athletic performance. The difference is that doping is providing the athlete with an unfair advantage. The question then becomes what is unfair? Because isn't an athlete who trains at greater altitudes have an advantage over one who doesn't? Yet you can't ban that because what if someone residency is in Colorodo? or Kenya? are you going to force them to move? Their are numerous examples, however personally I feel that we have to realize that their is a difference between steroid use and training at higher altitudes. Where the line is drawn is what makes this so ethically challenging, however it is one that WADA must clearly state. For example perhaps the mission statement needs to state "if a drug, substance or action engaged in(because this debate isn't limited to substance use) has clinical evidence that their are harmful affects to the indivdual then they are banned. very loose defintion and doesn't encompass all the issues at hand. But they need to have a strict ethical stance with a clear line of reasoning for both athletes and the spectators. Their also needs to be clear rules regarding when they can test because this is just as ethical an issue. I trust that these things will become more clearer in the future as WADA is still a young organization, however I hope they proceed with great caution and consider the impact that their decisions will have on the face of global sports.