To read this content please select one of the options below:

Bodybuilding, Gender and Drugs

Charlotte Nicola Jane Mclean (Liverpool John Moores University, UK)

Doping in Sport and Fitness

ISBN: 978-1-80117-158-8, eISBN: 978-1-80117-157-1

Publication date: 12 December 2022


This chapter presents an auto-ethnographic journey into the world of women's bodybuilding and the role performance-enhancing drugs play in the pursuit of muscularity in this growing, but hard-to-reach, subculture. The research addresses a paucity in the literature and paves the way for further research to inform public health initiatives for this population. Synthesizing journal entries, field observations and informal conversations recorded over the course of 18 months, this chapter provides insight into the rituals and practices present in bodybuilding culture. This embodied narrative explores the decision-making process surrounding anabolic androgenic steroid use in the context of competitive endeavour, including the impact that cultural norms, peer influence and personal narrative have on their uptake. It also sheds light on the experiences of being a woman in a man's world and the additional stigma women face when attempting to increase their muscularity. It also highlights the personal and professional challenges involved in auto-ethnographic endeavour.




I would like to thank Dr Conan Leavey from the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University, for his continued moral and academic support and for taking the time to review this piece of work.


Mclean, C.N.J. (2022), "Bodybuilding, Gender and Drugs", Henning, A. and Andreasson, J. (Ed.) Doping in Sport and Fitness (Research in the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 16), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 215-238.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 by Emerald Publishing Limited