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Deviant behaviour among competetive athletes - different modes of adaptation?


How can we understand and categorise deviant behaviours such as doping, eating disorders, strategic rule-violation in competitive sport? This essay will discuss theoretical aspects of this question. The proposal will be that Merton’s general theory of anomie and deviant behaviour, augmented by other theorists, is useful in the examination of the institutionalized means and the cultural goals in sport. The theoretical approach will analyse why 1) athletes who are innovators violate rules while focusing on the goal, 2) traditionalists emphasise the means, 3) drop outs reject both the means and the goals; 4) rebels change the means and the goals. My claim is that the two last modes of adaptation are more threatening to the meaning of sport as it is commonly understood than the first two.