Spitting in the Soup

Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports

By Mark Johnson


In Spitting in the Soup, sports journalist Mark Johnson explores how the deals made behind closed doors keep drugs in sports.

In stock


What will it take to kick doping out of sports forever?

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.

In Spitting in the Soup, 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—the essence of which is not to play fair but to push the boundaries of human performance.

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.

To see excerpts, interviews, and stories related to Spitting in the Soup, click here.

Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports
Mark Johnson
Hardcover with dust jacket.
6 3/8″ x 9 1/4″, 416 pp., $24.95, 9781937715274

Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports

Mark Johnson

Hardcover with dust jacket

Shipping Dimensions: 6.375in x 9.25in x 1.375in 416pp $24.95, Inventory 9781937715274, Shipping 1.75lbs


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

For more info, take a look at this Spitting in the Soup Chapter Summary.

Preview book.

“Johnson’s book explores the history of doping in sports, going back 150 years.” — Men’s Journal

“This may go down as the most important book on doping ever written. A fantastic work.” — Red Kite Prayer

“Mark Johnson is a long-time, in-the-trenches cycling journalist whose many years of reporting shine through in his book. Johnson… uses academic rigor combined with a journalist’s grind-it-out research and solid, accurate writing to give us a fast-moving history.” — Mike Sandrock, Daily Camera

“Johnson’s book shows that doping is so intertwined with sports that it will take a long time for Olympic athletes — and their federations — to quit using drugs to win.” — Public Radio International’s The World

“Mark Johnson takes the subject of anti-doping as his focus and serves up a dose of Gladwellian counter-intuitive paradigm-shifting, challenging your perception of today’s anti-doping system. . . A rewarding read” — Feargal McKay, Podium Café, The Top 10 Cycling Books of 2016

“In Spitting in the Soup, Mark Johnson argues that blaming only the athletes ignores larger cultural influences; teams, coaches, sports federations, and even spectators play a role. He also points to the problem of singling out the use of performance-enhancing drugs in a society in which Prozac and Adderall are prescribed routinely.” — Publishers Weekly

“In his new book, Spitting in the Soup, Mark Johnson dives into the history of performance-enhancing drugs and investigates the political, commercial, medical, social, and athletic currents that have shaped our attitudes toward them.” — VeloNews magazine

“It’s readable, it’s compelling, it’s thought provoking. Mark Johnson will have you questioning your critical thinking skills.” — David Halfpenny, Bicycles Network Australia

Spitting in the Soup is fantastic, but then you would not expect less from Mark Johnson. I am in no way a scholar of doping, but I have always figured my personal experience within the sport of cycling would qualify me as a bit of an expert in its culture of doping. Mark’s book introduced me to history I didn’t know and colored in a lot of story gaps elsewhere. I’ve always believed that cycling is more beautiful warts-and-all, with full disclosure, without revisionist history, and without plastic surgery. The topic of doping in sports is not a black-and-white issue, no matter how much so many people want it to be that simple. Spitting in the Soup only strengthens that feeling for me. Every fan of cycling should read it.” — Joe Parkin, author of A Dog in a Hat and Come and Gone

Spitting in the Soup is a hard-hitting, comprehensive, and highly readable analysis of the varying societal and historical forces driving our love-hate relationship with sports and doping… It’s is a fascinating book that should be of interest to anyone heavily invested in sports, whether as an athlete, coach, sport scientist, or fan.” — Pezcyclingnews.com

Spitting in the Soup takes us on a deep dive into the evolution of the problem and what it has done to the sports we love.” – Dr. Mark Shapiro, Explore the Space

“Suspend all your previous thoughts about Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and Tyler Hamilton! Mark Johnson’s new book helps us find answers to doping questions and also gives us a much more balance view of how we’ve come to the way we view drugs in sports today.” — Outspoken Cyclist

“Shocking.” — Jason Saltmarsh, SaltmarshRunning .com

“A good, thought-provoking read. Prepare to have your ideals challenged.” Singletrack

“Challenging.” — 220 Triathlon

“I was not sure one person could wrestle such material into a single narrative, but Johnson should feel proud and satisfied with Spitting in the Soup.” — John Gleaves, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, California State University Fullerton; Co-Director of the International Network for Humanistic Doping Research; Co-Director for the Center for Sociocultural Sport and Olympic Research; Conference Chair for the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport

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