Accepted Paper:

The Tour de Technoscience: Lance Armstrong and the Sociology of the Techno-Athlete  


Samuel Haraway (University of California, Davis)

Paper short abstract:

I argue that contemporary sport is best explained as "trials of strength" (Latour 1988) anchored in assemblages of laboratories, materials, bodies, knowledge, institutions and sponsorships. This conception of "techno-sport" raises additional questions concerning subjectivity, agency, and doping.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is a socio-historical study of the "techno-athlete" that treats Lance Armstrong's seven-consecutive Tour de France victories (1999-2005) and doping controversy as a case by which to reexamine questions concerning subjectivity, agency, and doping in sport. I first reconstruct sport as "trials of strength" (Latour 1988) between heterogenous actor-networks. Far from competitions between human individuals or symbolic representations of the "pure" body, what I call "techno-sport" is anchored in the assemblages of laboratories, materials, bodies, knowledge, institutions, sponsorships, and so on, by which contemporary sport unfolds. I then explore Armstrong's training for the 1999-2005 Tours de France as translations of the self by which aerodynamic science, nutrition regimes, clothing and equipment designs, periodized training methods, and blood-boosting techniques (by PEDs and altitude training alike), generate a techno-athlete who is at once distributed and centered by a heterogeneous network (Mialet 2012). By understanding sport as a material and collective process we can escape the myth of the singularized, heroic athlete around which the biopolitics of anti-doping expands today. I ask, what becomes of skilled performances, the subjectivity and agency of the contemporary athlete, in light of the heterogeneous collectivities through which contemporary sport unfolds?

Panel T095
Sport, Technoscience, Medicine and Performance