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Mark Johnson's new title Spitting in the Soup examines the history of performance enhancing drugs in sport. For 150 years, drugs have been used for gains in sports from baseball to horse racing, cycling to track and field.
Today, though, athletes are vilified for using performance-enhancing drugs. Damned as moral deviants who shred the fair-play fabric, dopers are an affront to the athletes who don’t take shortcuts.
But this tidy view swindles sports fans. While we may want the world sorted into villains and victims, putting the blame on athletes alone ignores decades of history in which teams, coaches, governments, the media, scientists, sponsors, sports federations, and even spectators have played a role. The truth about doping in sports is messy and shocking because it holds a mirror to our own reluctance to spit in the soup—that is, to tell the truth about the spectacle we crave.
It’s easy to assume that drugs in sports have always been frowned upon, but that’s not true. Drugs in sports are old. It’s banning drugs in sports that is new. Spitting in the Soup offers a bitingly honest, clear-eyed look at why that’s so, and what it will take to kick pills out of the locker room once and for all.