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Bodybuilding and Fitness Doping in Transition. Historical Transformations and Contemporary Challenges

Department of Sport Science, Linnaeus University, 39182 Kalmar, Sweden
Department of Education, Learning and Communication, University of Gothenburg, 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(3), 80;
Received: 16 January 2019 / Revised: 25 February 2019 / Accepted: 27 February 2019 / Published: 4 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Extreme Sports, Extreme Bodies)
PDF [287 KB, uploaded 12 March 2019]


This article describes and analyses the historical development of gym and fitness culture in general and doping use in this context in particular. Theoretically, the paper utilises the concept of subculture and explores how a subcultural response can be used analytically in relation to processes of cultural normalisation as well as marginalisation. The focus is on historical and symbolic negotiations that have occurred over time, between perceived expressions of extreme body cultures and sociocultural transformations in society—with a perspective on fitness doping in public discourse. Several distinct phases in the history of fitness doping are identified. First, there is an introductory phase in the mid-1950s, in which there is an optimism connected to modernity and thoughts about scientifically-engineered bodies. Secondly, in the 1960s and 70s, a distinct bodybuilding subculture is developed, cultivating previously unseen muscular male bodies. Thirdly, there is a critical phase in the 1980s and 90s, where drugs gradually become morally objectionable. The fourth phase, the fitness revolution, can be seen as a transformational phase in gym culture. The massive bodybuilding body is replaced with the well-defined and moderately muscular fitness body, but at the same time there are strong commercialised values which contribute to the development of a new doping market. Finally, it is possible to speculate on the development of a fifth phase, in which fitness doping is increasingly being filtered into mainstream gym and fitness culture, influencing the fitness doping demography. View Full-Text
Keywords: fitness doping; gym culture; extreme bodies; gender; bodybuilding fitness doping; gym culture; extreme bodies; gender; bodybuilding
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Andreasson, J.; Johansson, T. Bodybuilding and Fitness Doping in Transition. Historical Transformations and Contemporary Challenges. Soc. Sci. 2019, 8, 80.

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