The Tour de France, Russian track and field, Maria Sharapova, the 2016 Summer Olympics—doping will continue to overshadow the sports news for months after the Olympic closing ceremonies.


In his controversial new book, Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports, veteran sports journalist Mark Johnson explores how the deals made behind closed doors keep drugs in sports. Johnson unwinds the doping culture from the early days, when pills meant progress, and uncovers the complex relationships that underlie elite sports culture. Spitting in the Soup offers a bitingly honest, clear-eyed look at doping in sports—and what it will take to kick pills out of the locker room once and for all.

Doping is as old as organized sports. From baseball to horse racing, cycling to track and field, drugs have been used to enhance performance for 150 years. For much of that time, doping to do better was expected. It was doping to throw a game that stirred outrage.

Today, though, athletes are vilified for using performance-enhancing drugs. Damned as moral deviants who shred the fair-play fabric, dopers are an affront to the athletes who don’t take shortcuts.

But this tidy view swindles sports fans. While we may want the world sorted into villains and victims, putting the blame on athletes alone ignores decades of history in which teams, coaches, governments, the media, scientists, sponsors, sports federations, and even spectators have played a role. The truth about doping in sports is messy and shocking because it holds a mirror to our own reluctance to spit in the soup—that is, to tell the truth about the spectacle we crave.

It’s easy to assume that drugs in sports have always been frowned upon, but that’s not true. Drugs in sports are old. It’s banning drugs in sports that is new. Spitting in the Soup offers a bitingly honest, clear-eyed look at why that’s so, and what it will take to kick pills out of the locker room once and for all.



Table of Contents


1 The Origins of Doping
2 Pierre de Coubertin and the Fair-Play Myth
3 The Fall of Coubertin’s Ideal
4 The Hot Roman Day When Doping Became Bad
5 Doping Becomes a Crime
6 The Birth of the World Anti-Doping Agency
7 Doping and the Cold War
8 Anabolic Steroids: Sports as Sputnik
9 The Reds Are Winning
10 Spinning Olympic Gold: L.A. 1984
11 The Sports Act Delivers: Gold in ‘84
12 Dr. Ferrari Was Right
13 Fear Makes Good Copy
14 The War on Drugs
15 Amphetamines for All
16 Supplements: Government-Approved Dope
17 Charlie Francis: Take It to Make It
18 DSHEA, Steroids, and Baseball’s Salvation
19 If It’s Inherited, Is It Cheating?
20 Moral Drift and the American Way

Epilogue: The Spirt of Sport
About the Author

Full chapter summary available on velopress web site.