Can mechanical doping be justified in professional cyclists’ modern work environment?


  • Charlotte Smith University of Leicester



Cyclysts, work environment, anti-doping


Adopting a position of ‘sport as work’ this paper therefore pays heed to the nature of the work environment that cyclysts compete in and theoretically evaluates how ‘mechanical doping’ may be justified in professional cycling. It takes the spirit of sport as its framing and considers the regimes, threats and opportunities that machine use may present, also using Boltanski and Thévenot’s (2006) justification of worth, together with key debates on pharmacological doping and the commodification of sport. To set up its argument, this article first introduces machine use in cycling before reviewing key ideas on the ethics of technology use in sport. In the main section it is argued that machine use may be an alternative to drug doping and could be justifiable if it increases performances, preserves cyclists’ careers and health, upholds team relations, and maintains spectators’ enjoyment combined with the spirit of sport. However, the argument also throws caution to adopting this technology, suggesting machine use may represent a key threat to the authenticity of performances and the nature of competition, and not least if it follows the same path as pharmacological doping. Overall this paper concludes that the chances of machines being legitimately accepted by stakeholders should be greatly increased if performances can be improved and the dangers of a commodification of sport, wherein exceptionality has become the norm, are mitigated against. At the end suggestions are made on how machine use could potentially be introduced and managed in cycling in conjunction with a spirit of sport and it notes that a future of clean sport machine use would need to be strategically implemented and available to all.


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Glass, A. (2016) David Walsh: Mechanical doping could spell the end of pro cycling. Online at accessed, 18.05.16.
Magdalinski, T. (2009) Sport, technology and the body; The nature of performance, London: Routledge.
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Smith, C. (2015) Tour du dopage: Confessions of doping professional cyclists in a modern work environment, International Review for the Sociology of Sport DOI: 10.1177/1012690215572855.




How to Cite

Smith, C. (2018). Can mechanical doping be justified in professional cyclists’ modern work environment?. PuntOorg International Journal, 2(1), 63–67.