Calling Out the Heavy Hitters: What the Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Professional Baseball Reveals About the Politics and Mass Communication of Sport

in International Journal of Sport Communication

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Bryan E. DenhamClemson University, USA

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In this essay, the author proposes that, in order to understand how the issue of performance-enhancing-drug use in professional baseball has been defined for mass audiences, scholars need to consider the political and economic interests of both baseball and the media companies that have covered the issue. Where performance-enhancing drugs are concerned, media characterizations have had a significant impact on the formation of public and organizational policy, and the author seeks to demonstrate that portrayals and perceptions of drug use in baseball can be understood through the media product that results from an intersection of normative standards with powerful influences on those standards. Calling out the heavy hitters in a culture of pervasive drug use is unfair to elite performers in that media reports sometimes give the impression that athletes have reached superstar status because they were willing to do what others were not; this is a basic falsehood.

The author is with the Dept. of Communication Studies, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, bdenham@clemson.edu

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