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Bike Racing Neutralization and the Social Construction of Performance-Enhancing Drug Use

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.