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(Un)Becoming a Fitness Doper: Negotiating the Meaning of Illicit Drug Use in a Gym and Fitness Context

Journal article
Authors Jesper Andreasson
Thomas Johansson
Published in Journal of Sport and Social Issues
Volume 44
Issue 1
Pages 93-109
ISSN 0193-7235
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Pages 93-109
Language en
Keywords fitness doping, fitness culture, bodybuilding, trajectories, exit processes, doping prevention
Subject categories Sociology


The widespread availability of doping and its growing prevalence among fitness groups has contributed greatly to the realization of an emergent public health issue. Emanating from an ethnographic study in Sweden, the purpose of this study was to describe and analyze the processes involved in becoming and “unbecoming” a fitness doping user. The study employs a cultural and sociological perspective as its theoretical framework and discusses how the participating users gradually develop their knowledge about the drugs and how the process of becoming a user is negotiated in relation to ideas and ideals concerning health, gender, and individual freedom and Swedish law. Regarding exit processes, (re)entering into what is perceived to be an ordinary “normal” life was seldom a straightforward process. To understand the complex and sometimes complicated transition processes involved in becoming respectively unbecoming a fitness doper, the results highlight the limitations of using stage models for understanding exit process as heuristic tools. Furthermore, the article argue for the necessity to investigate the negotiations of fitness doping, taking place in the intersection between subcultural affiliations/spaces, doping legislation, and mainstream perceptions of living a “Normal” life. It is argued that processes of (un)becoming a fitness doper are anything but linear and thus need to be understood in relation to sociocultural belonging and ongoing negotiation of the individual’s sense of self.

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