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Mortal Engines: The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport

Mortal Engines: The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport

by John M. Hoberman

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Athletes' use of steroids, testosterone and other drugs to boost performance reflects an obsesson with winning at any cost, observes Hoberman, who maintains that the age-old ideals of sportsmanship prevalent less than a century ago have been replaced by dehumanized, often brutal competition. This eye-opening study traces the efforts of scientists, trainers and doctors to adapt athletes to ever-increasing levels of stress. Chapters cover the birth of sports physiology around 1890; anthropological theories of racial variation; the politics of contemporary drug use; the myth of robotized communist athletes; and the shameful drugging, electroshock treatments and physical torture applied to racehorses. Hoberman, a runner for 20 years and a language professor at the University of Texas, cogently argues that modern sports psychology, based on the romantic myth that athletes can be liberated from inner blocks, has scarcely advanced beyond its 19th-century prototypes. He also blasts the Olympics for managerial indifference to athletes' drug use. (July)
Library Journal
``Gentlemen, start your engines!'' is the cry that resounds annually at the opening of the Indianapolis 500. Hoberman's Mortal Engines symbolically parallels this cry, substituting human beings for machines. The author's premise is that athletes, trainers, and scientists have utilized performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids, in a relentless, nearly obsessive quest for victory--without counting the cost in human lives. Much of the material contained in this startling account is not widely known; thus, it provides a much-needed base for understanding the limit to which athletes will extend themselves, sometimes unknowingly. The author occasionally tends toward sensationalism, emphasizing German practices and questioning the efforts of reputable scientists to improve athletic performance. Still, this book will be a useful addition to sports science collections.-- Albert Spencer, Univ. of Nevada , Las Vegas

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Free Press
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6.69(w) x 9.84(h) x (d)

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