Sunday, 29 March 2015

Book Review: Yar Majid (2014) Crime, Deviance and Doping: Fallen Sports Stars, Autobiography and the Management of Stigma Palgrave Pivot

Occupational drugs - the amphetamine of the people?

My reason for reviewing this book is that I thought it would help me write a book I'm currently writing called Sports Criminology for Policy Press.  It did; and whilst Yar talks about criminology and the sociology of deviance in early chapters he does not use the term 'sports criminology'.  But as the inventor of the term I'm happy to induct Yar's book into the canon.

Yar admits in a preface that his interest in sport as a site of criminological interest came during a period of enforced inactivity that found him in front of the television watching sport, particularly the Tour de France. Clearly cycling and the Tour will feature strongly as a sport in my book but it should be noted that the Tour will also be treated as a spectacle, a narrative, a business.

Yar specifically examines a number of ‘fallen-star’ autobiographies to reflect on how they manage the crime-like stigma that they live under.  The key and ongoing exemplar in all of this is US Cyclist, and one-time record breaking Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong but he also examines the cases of British Sprinter, Dwain Chambers, Armstrong’s antagonist Tyler Hamilton and UK cyclist David Millar (who becomes David Millar in a couple of places earning himself a separate index mention! and even becomes Mark Millar on back cover blurb!!).  The only woman is US sprint star Marion Jones.

Turning to the specifically criminological Yar (p2-4) asserts, ‘Criminology and allied disciplines are no strangers when it comes to sport’ but goes on to say, ‘even if its study remains a rather marginal and somewhat neglected area.’  Hence my book. He sees criminological engagement in 3 areas: that of desistance; cultures or sub-cultures, specifically hyper-masculinity and finally sport as the site of the crimes of corruption and doping.  However there are also some other criminological mentions.
Yar notes the belief in the power of sport, and tests of it, as one of the few engagements that criminology has has with sport.   It is Yar’s interest in desistance that led him to examine the management of stigma by ‘fallen sports stars’.  Participation in sport can be seen the sort of activity that might bolster an individuals, ‘investment in conventional social values by imparting a belief in fair play, cooperation, persistence and rule-following’ (p3)  He mentions Zamanian et al (2012) who specifically locate their work in a differential association framework but still warn against overestimating the role of sports in tackling social problems. His mentions cultures or sub-cultures are specifically of the ‘hyper-masculinity’ (p4).  See my review of Meek's work on sport in prison for fuller discussion of the utility of sport in crime prevention/desistance.
cultures or sub-cultures
Yar specifically mentions theories of social control and differential association (p3) cultures or sub-cultures, specifically hyper-masculinity (p4) and ‘techniques of neutralisation’ (Sykes and Matza, 1957) (p6). He touches lightly on the possibility that Sutherland et al’s (1995) social learning theory might suggest sport as promoting the pro-social.  
sport as the site of the crimes of corruption and doping
This is the focus of his book; Yar concentrates on the wrongdoing of a number of 5 sports stars but he also lists: John Daly (golfer charged with assaulting wife); Mike Tyson (boxer, rape); O J Simpson (NFL, charged with murder and convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping); Michael Vick (NFL, interstate dog fighting); Mickey Thomas (soccer, counterfeiting); Graham Rix (soccer, indecent assault and unlawful sex) and Wolfgang Schwarz (figure skater, kidnapping and human trafficking).  This is a wider list of crimes and sports but emphasises again the joint maleness of sport and of crime.
Yar’s longer list further highlights the randomness of his list and suggests it to be almost as serendiptious as his Tour de France watching.  No reason is given for the inclusion of any of the athletes.  Only Armstrong's case can be seen to be beyond question and Jones's inclusion necessary for gender reasons.  Other sports have had drugs test crises but cycling and athletics ‘shine’ in this competition.
His discussion of gender issues is deficient as Penfold-Mounce makes clear in her review in Theoretical Criminology whilst only lightly touching on his failure to mention her work on celebrity and crime from their shared publisher.  Given that women criminals and sportswomen are doubly deviant this makes Jones deviant 'cubed'.  No wonder that she still labours under the stigma.  Even before her own drug ban Messner (2002: 109-111) notes that when Jones’s husband C J Hunter failed a drugs test in the build up to 2000 Olympics she moved from ‘our’ (USA’s) ‘girl’ (gender) to that ‘black’ athlete under a cloud.
Sykes and Matza
Given the emphasis on stigma in his book it is no surprise to find Yar leans heavily on Sykes and Matza (1957) but whilst it structures his investigation of the star's autobiographies it constrains him too.  Thus discussions of early childhood parental loss, abuse or separation is seen as 'denial of responsibility'.  But just because you are ‘neutralising’ does not necessarily mean you are deluding yourself or others. I think he is right to see such appeals as drawing on a 'folk criminology'.
He sets out Sykes and Matza' 5 'techniques' and suggests another (described on page 29 as a ‘fifth’, but surely sixth, see also page 71) derived from his reading, that of 'denial of the deviant self'.  That is the stigmatised athlete's 'discreditable' behaviour has now become known and the athlete is now 'discredited' (Goffman, listen to Thinking Allowed special).  Having become discredited they seek Resolution (his chapter 7) through temporal distance (as celebrities they can't move) by arguing 'I'm no longer that person'.  He notes all the athlete's accounts start with tales of innocence (chapter 3) so during their Initiation (chapter 4) and Commitment (chapter 5) they must also have become 'not that person’.  That person we find paid his taxes (Dwayne Chambers) and was brought up to tell the truth (Tyler Hamilton) (p41).
other criminological mentions
Yar protects his use of ‘moral panic’ with scare quotes and makes not mention of Cohen merely stating, ‘media discourses of doping have also inevitably been subject to analysis through the time-honoured sociological lens of ‘moral panic’ theory’ (p6) noting, ‘such accounts suggests the problem has been exaggerated and sensationalised, with anti-doping moral entrepreneurs playing a key role in defining the issue according to their own particular interests.  He cites Christiansen (2007) and Goode (2011) but we might now also have mention Coomber (2014) or Critcher (2014).

Christiansen uses the term ‘moral’ he does not speak of ‘moral panic’ though Critcher specifically does so.  I’m less convinced that these constitute ‘moral panics’ as panic is present and ‘folk devils’ may abound but their is no amplification spiral where more deviance/deviants is created by the social reaction.  I’ve long grizzled about the degradation of Cohen’s original concept.

A final criminological mention is Shaw’s (1930) The Jack Roller: A Delinquent Boys Own Story (which has no mention of sport) which leads to a discussion of the use of autobiography citing the likes of Maruna and Copes (2005), Maruna and Matravers (2007), Gadd and Farrall (2004) and Gadd and Jefferson (2007) and his own (2011).  The times may be passing when we feel the need to explain (auto)biography in social ‘science’.

In his discusion of neutralisation he leans heavily on Ophir Sefiha (2012) ‘Bike Racing, Neutralization, and the Social Construction of Performance-Enhancing Drug Use’ 
The abstract of which reads;
Drawing from participant observation and interviews, I examine the attitudes and beliefs of elite and former professional cyclists and team personnel regarding performance-enhancing drug (PED)  use and the neutralization techniques they employed to excuse and justify PED  consumption. Participants most frequently  adopted accounts in which they condemned the condemners, viewing as hypocrites those labeling PED  use as deviant, and arguing that all manner of PED  use is commonplace throughout society. Participants further expressed distrust of sporting federations, law enforcement, and medical professionals, whom they viewed as exaggerating and distorting information about the dangers of PED  use. Riders also appealed to higher loyalties and defense of necessity, claiming that PED  use was for many professional cyclists nearly an occupational necessity. Members viewed PED  use as a rational means to an end while also embodying fundamental tenets of professional cycling culture which prizes risk taking and commitment.
Sofia’s work might have lead Yar to baseball star Barry Bonds on whom (auto)biographical material is available though allegations remain largely unexamined and remorse absent.  And Walsh (2013), who he quotes on Lance Armstrong, might also suggest looking at swimmer, Michelle Smith.  Smith sets out her story in the ghosted autobiography Gold: A Triple Champion’s Story (1996).  Allegations of doping were made against her at Atlanta, had been proved against her husband/coach Erik de Bruin, and two years later she received a four year ban for tampering with her urine sample.  She is now a barrister. 

Interestingly Sykes and Matza make observations about sport directly in their short paper:
the juvenile delinquent may exhibit great resentment if illegal behavior is imputed to “significant others” in his immediate enviornment (typo in original) or to heroes in the world of sport and entertainment (1957: 665).
So Yar’s work is clearly in my field of sports criminology but he too easily assumes the star’s criminality.  He is a criminaliser and uses Sykes and Matza to condemn them.  It is more complex.  Thus Walsh is passionate in his defence of sport and proud of his part in Armstrong’s ‘fall’. But in his work you see that when the dopers claim ‘everybody is at it’ this is not just neutralisation but truth.  Walsh’s book contains some mention of recreational drugs but, and thi my coining, we are talking about industrial amounts of ‘occupational’ drugs.

As Fotheringham (2009) reminds us there is a history in the Tour, for instance 
Fausto Coppi twice winner of the Tour and Giro d’Italia double (1949 and 1952):
was upfront about his use of drugs, particularly "la bomba", a mix of caffeine, cola and amphetamine pills. His great rival Gino Bartali preferred more natural stimulation and would drink up to 28 espressos a day.

Moreover, Yar ignores too easily the pressures on the riders to perform and on the journalists not rock the boat.  The Tour was invented by a magazine (L’Auto) and its successor publication L’Equipe is owned by the Tour’s organisers who promote and cover other sports too (Paris Marathon, Paris-Dakar rally).  Again Walsh is recommended on these angles.  Yar was drawn in by the spectacle but too easily forgets how it is provided - capital and cycling labour.  

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