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About Cycling, read also
decor"In sports, doping is a tool of the trade"

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le dopé est-il un drogué ?

by Mariam El Kurdi

Cycling: Is Being Doped Akin to Being a Drug Addict?

Translated Tuesday 5 September 2006, by Shaila Kamath

Cycling: the Tour de Spain begins with the background of doping by the infamous Dr. Fuentes.

The opinion of a sports psychologist.

According to Karine Bui-Xuan Picchedda, sports psychologist and PhD in clinical psychology, who is not in line with the generally accepted ideas, doping would fall under “a thought-out process” for the sportsmen.

HUMA: In what state of mind is a cyclist who dopes himself?

KARINE BUI-XUAN PICCHEDDA: In this sport, the physical suffering is intolerable. The cyclist constantly tries to overcome the pain. Moreover, he thinks that his social recognition depends on his performance. The money stakes are also important. He has the impression that he is playing with his life. Doping enables him to surmount pain and to improve his performance. The pressure is not external, but comes rather from within him and from his relation with the sport.

HUMA: You qualify doping as “thought-out”, isn’t this paradoxical?

KARINE BUI-XUAN PICCHEDDA: Ever since the sport has been under the spotlight of science, with researchers analyzing the movement, the trainers think that it is possible to control and modify it. Consequence: One sees the sportsman only under his physical and not his psychic aspect. The possibility of creating, expressing a personal style does not exist. The sport thus is taught and lived in a very rational way. Doping is in fact only one element of this rationalization. If the sportsman is doing badly, he will not seek to understand the reason, but will try to lessen the pain. One often confuses being doped with a drug dependant addict, which is wrong. Actually, the cyclist can regulate his consumption and stop when needed. His action is well thought and controlled.

HUMA: A contradiction is observed between the ethics conveyed by the sport and the principles inherent in doping…

KARINE BUI-XUAN PICCHEDDA: In fact, a discourse on doping is not ethical but only moral. Moreover doping goes hand in hand with cheating. The sporting medium does not give much importance to the health risks involved. Moreover doping gives a negative image to the sport. On the other hand, sportsmen are encouraged when they are very young that they can always surpass themselves by more training or by being violent. When the pain appears, they resort to doping to maintain their progress.

HUMA: One of your study subjects, whom you call Philippe, qualifies the professional sporting practice as harmful and the doping as remedy. A current case?

KARINE BUI-XUAN PICCHEDDA: For these sportsmen, doping is a manner of preventing the frequent pain, or of reducing it. Their experience negates the image of the sport as a source of wellbeing. They are very well versed and can quote names of precise hormones. They have detected the times when they are most tired during the year and thus know when and in what quantity to be doped. They speak about “cure” overcoming hormonal imbalances. It is a means of reaching a performance akin to that when they were training. Some of the doped sportsmen told me that they did not see any other solution. However, not all the sportsmen resort to doping. That depends on the way in which they have built their relationship with the sport and on their psychological state.

I sent a questionnaire to 179 sportsmen of all disciplines and mixed levels of ability. I concluded that there were four types of commitments which encourage competitive sport: seeking for feelings; the tiredness felt after the effort; the performance and outcome; and finally the controlled performance. Those who belong to the last category are the ones prone to doping. These people who wish to control all, lack confidence in themselves. However society today reflects this state of mind. The sedentary speeches are ambient, the fear of the risk and the unknown very present. Human behavior seeks to be reassured and be controlled. Doping is one way of achieving it.

HUMA: How can this problem be solved?

KARINE BUI-XUAN PICCHEDDA: One cannot talk about problems insofar as the fact of being doped is not a case of psychopathology or mental illness. Doping gives reassurance. But there are legal ways to obtain reassurance, in the psychology of the sport, and becoming increasingly known as sportive. To alleviate the pain, the sportsman could stop or rest. But this is not recommended by the trainers. The training should evolve in this direction. There is a need for an in-depth session in which the young sportsman expresses himself more on doping and performance. He would then be in a better position to weigh the pros and cons of doping.

Interview conducted by Mariam El Kurdi

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