Jemima Sumgong’s doping ban has been doubled to eight years after “compelling evidence” that her claims of being
unknowingly injected with erythropoietin (EPO) by a Kenyan imposter physician were dismissed. The 2016 Olympic champion tested positive for EPO in 2017, following claims that she had submitted inaccurate medical records. These medical records included reports of an ectopic pregnancy leading to a blood transfusion at Nairobi hospital. Sumgong’s hospital and trial failed to provide evidence of her innocence, resulting in in a four year ban which has now been doubled to eight years.
Athletes are fully aware of the potential consequences of doping, yet still choose to do so. Research has shown that many athletes view doping as deviant, yet justifiable, behaviour. The social world of sport values individual performance and success as much as healthy behaviours. This naturally leads to conflict, whereby the athlete is required to somehow justify their reasons for doping. One way of doing this is through neutralization, in which athletes view their justifications for deviance as valid while the greater society does not. This may be because doping is often viewed by socialized athletes as a form of positive deviance. A study on French elite student athletes found that younger athletes were less prone to positive attitudes towards doping. This may provide some explanation as to why doping is relatively prevalent in elite adult sports.
This is a great example of how sport is intimately connected to the larger social context, while still defining normative limits of deviance separately within the sporting world.
Featured Image: Marathon Runner Jemima Sumgong at the Rio 2016 Olympics