Exploring the media portrayal of north american sport culture and identity following the russian state-sponsored doping scandal


At the Olympic level, sport has evolved from a competition of athletics to represent significant displays of individual, organizational, and political power. When revelations arose against Russia concerning systematic state-sponsored doping, the integrity of international sport was called into question and countries experienced threats towards their national identity. Since 2014, news coverage of the Russian doping scandal has dominated North American sport media headlines. The media is considered a powerful outlet capable of influencing behaviours, attitudes, and actions through the transmission of ideas, values, and norms. As such, the purpose of our study was to identify dominant discourses surrounding the Russian state-sponsored doping program as presented in the North American media from the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014 to Pyeongchang 2018. We conducted an ethnographic content analysis of 113 newspaper articles to identify how the media perpetuated attitudes and ideas surrounding cultural identity in elite sport. Two main discourses were identified describing: (a) the frustration and disappointment held by North Americans against international sport governing bodies, and (b) the desire to fight for clean sport. Where the former discourse left readers feeling hopeless about the influx of pharmaceutical drugs coupled with the lack of effective doping sanctions in sport, the latter discourse provided feasible suggestions to prevent doping from further contaminating sport integrity. Although a clear-cut solution to the problem was not discussed, we encourage the community to reflect on their own moral stances and form educated opinions, which can be translated into meaningful, responsive action toward a promising solution.