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Civilising Processes and Doping in Professional Cycling

This article contends that professional cyclists have undergone civilising processes in relation to doping within the sport. Drawing on the theoretical approach of Elias, the author argues that over time stronger shame feelings in relation to doping became part of the social habitus of professional cyclists and doping became increasingly ‘pushed behind the scenes’. Yet, contradictions and reversals persisted in attitudes and behaviour. These fractures and discontinuities occurred due to several interconnected processes: the role of suffering within the sport and the nature of mutual identification that developed around it, the specific structure of the figuration of professional cycle sport, and the slowness of a comprehensive and effective monopoly apparatus over the control of doping to emerge and the perceived legitimacy of this. Combined these processes generated a social habitus in which doping only very slowly came to be perceived as shameful and which varied across space and time. Despite this a civilising advance is evident.