Dunning, E and Waddington, I  (2003)  'Sport as a Drug and Drugs in Sport', in International Review for the Sociology of Sport, vol 38 No. 3: 351 - 368.

A wide-ranging exploratory piece attempting to connect some aspects of figurational analysis to the history of drug involvement in sport and to recent policies involving the use of sport to combat recreational drug abuse.

The first issue is whether the relations between drug users and  'normal' members of society might best be understood as  'an  "established - outsider" figuration' as in Elias's work  (351). Such figurations involve the demonisation and labelling of outsiders as a threat to the moral order, and a tendency towards amplification, where  'the members of established groups... characterise all members of outsider groups in terms... of the minority of outsiders whose behaviour actually does contravene generally accepted standards' (352). Such amplification apparently affects the public's perception of bodybuilders, since modifying the body has long been associated with outsider behaviour, and all bodybuilders tend to be characterised according to the behaviour of steroid abusers. Negative labels can be internalized or accepted by outsiders themselves, bowling some cases, as with bodybuilders, the subculture itself provides support. Much depends on the integration of outsider  [and established] groups in this case.  [Despite the figurational terminology, this is actually quite a conventional sociological analysis of labelling or deviancy amplification -- I have some files on the classics here myself].

There are some unique features of drug taking outsiders though. Drug use is a universal practice in all human societies, even though only some drug-taking is regarded as illegitimate. The widespread use of medically prescribed drugs and the use of tobacco and alcohol raise some of the issues. Uses here do not normally see themselves as  'drug users', of course. Nevertheless, 'large numbers of people' are dependent on tobacco and alcohol, and  'both drugs have a close connection with sport and leisure in modern societies' (354).

Brewers sponsor a good deal of support both in the UK and in the USA, for example. Drinking has long been associated with sport, as a study of the Cornish game 'hurling' indicates  [apparently the game was followed by a great deal of drinking]. There is also an early connection between publicans and their sponsorship of various team games for commercial reasons 'As far back as the early Middle Ages' (Dunning and Waddington, page 355, citing Brailsford).

This indicates that there has always been a dualistic tendency in sport, characterised as a clash of  'two different and contrasting ideological syndromes... a  "Dionysian"  or  "Epicurean"  , that is, pleasure centred strain and... a  "Stoical"  or  "Puritanical"  thrust' (355) [not an amateur versus commercialised strain? This somehow derives from the more fundamental Dionysian impulses etc?]. The latter became dominant from the Reformation, especially as Britain became a  'capitalist urban - industrial nation state' (355). This strain found expression in the early adoption of sport by the newer public schools, the rational recreation movement, and the  'sport/health ideology' (355). The physical education profession with its hostility towards commercialised sport, and the Olympic movement also favoured this strain. However, the balance may be turning back with the  'emergence of commercialised, consumption - based, body image-oriented and highly individualised fashions such as jogging, aerobics and the use of mechanised fitness clubs' (356).

The Dionysian strain persisted as an underground and adult tendency, very often expressed in excessive drinking after physical contact sports -- both were seen as manly. Excessive drinking became associated with university sport, sport played by the military and police, and above all, rugby union football. It took on subcultural forms with initiation rites  'which were sometimes funny but more often degrading and even cruel' (356), explicitly sexual songs, and the mockery of females and male homosexuals.

In the USA, there is the practice of  'hazing' ('sports-related initiation ceremonies')  (356), which seems widespread according to a recent survey. Half of these ceremonies involved excessive drinking. Another recent study suggests that  'initiation ceremonies have become normalized within sports clubs at... university and that ceremonies were common among both male and female athletes' (357). Alcohol was involved for both men and women, even though male ceremonies  'more frequently involve nakedness, drinking urine, physical abuse and encouraging novices to vomit on one another' (357).

This can be speculatively linked to work on German leisure societies investigated by Elias, including the duelling fraternities dating from the 17th century. Newcomers were often forced to drink by the seniors in order to show whether they could belong. The interesting thing about these rituals is that they encourage heavy-drinking and yet within a tightly disciplined framework. Elias apparently thought that this combination appealed particularly to those who were socially ill-at-ease and unhappy. The prominence of sexual motives in English drinking rituals implies that sexuality and its relations may be a factor in such lack of social ease.

Here, some additional work on  'leisure - gemeineschaften' ['gemeinschaften' means 'communities'], such as parties and works outings show the importance of social factors. The work is used to criticise the dominant medical approach which charts the supposed physiological and neurological effects alone. The point is to look at alcohol's social function -- which is to help loosen  'the socially instilled inhibitions which are characteristic of the majority of people in complex, relatively impersonal and highly routinised societies' (361). Moderate drinking, as opposed to the violent binges in the Middle Ages, is the typical response of a  'civilised' society  [used in a special way here -- see file]. Evidence of less restrained drinking, especially among the younger people, in sporting activity and on holiday, could be seen as evidence  'that we are currently experiencing a de-civilising process' (362).  [This raises all the usual problems about the concept and how you would find evidence to support or reject it].

There are implications for social policy, especially those that advocate the use of sport to reduce community levels of youth crime, delinquency and drug abuse. These are well supported in Britain currently. An example is a project called  'Positive Futures', funded jointly by Sport England, the Youth Justice Board, and the United Kingdom Anti- Drugs Co-ordination Unit. Sport is to be used to reduce anti-social behaviour among the young. Do these projects work?

They seem to be based on a one-sided perception of sport -- the puritanical one. This sees sport as unambiguously wholesome and healthy, both physically and morally, almost as an act of faith. It is true that sport is popular with the young, but that may be because it provides the same sort of excitement as illegal behaviour. It is not clear that sport will replace these other forms of leisure pursuits. Finally, sport can itself provide environments in which  '"acts of violence, confrontation and drug use may be licensed in ritualised fashion and given meaning through their association with the hegemonic masculine ideals of toughness, heroism and sacrifice"' (Dunning and Waddington, page 358, quoting Crabbe). Certainly, concrete empirical evidence is slender. One particular project might have had a beneficial effect on selected individuals, but there is less 'systematically gathered statistical information' (359).

What is needed is less an act of faith and more  'relatively detached analysis' [another figurational practice referred to here --see Rojek's critique]  (359). In particular, the Dionysian elements of sporting culture need to be fully recognised, and the long association with heavy-drinking. Studies from the USA, Finland and France confirm this relationship between sporting participation and drinking and the use of other drugs. Finally, it would be wrong to over-react and to see alcohol as the main cause of football hooliganism  [as did the UK government in the 1980s]. Some hooligans do not drink, for example, because it impedes their fighting performance. Drinking and drugs are best seen as an aspect of Dionysian culture, and they are connected with fighting through the 'norms of masculinity that are expressed in hooligan behaviour' (362), rather than one causing the other.

Participation in sport can be seen as rather similar to drug-taking in that both provide a  'buzz' or  'high', a  'quest for excitement' typical of much leisure activity [as in Elias and Dunning more generally]. Football-related violence, sport generally, and even exercise can create dependency if not actual addiction  [and a number of studies are summarised, page 363]. Certainly, obsession can have damaging effects  including'withdrawal symptoms on cessation of exercise, disturbed psychological functioning, exercising despite medical contraindications and interference with relationships' (363). Much of this might be  'secondary dependence'. The phenomenom might include the reported withdrawal symptoms of football fans during the close season.

This article does not focus much upon the issue of performance enhancing drugs in sport, although Waddington has written elsewhere about this issue (in a 2000 book). The phenomenon includes supplying drugs to animals, such as racehorses, which has a long history. Some athletes have also been systematically drugged without their knowledge, as in the East German case.  [I think these examples are used to indicate that it is not just a moral or personal decision that leads to drug abuse of this kind, but patterns of social relationships].

Thus we can open up new avenues of research by applying figurational analysis -- established - outsider figurations, civilising processes, leisure-gemeinschaften. We also need more cross-cultural studies of sport and alcohol, and more systematic monitoring of social policies intending to use sport to prevent illegal activities.