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By Felix Lowe

After virtually a decade of reporting at the exploits of the professional peloton, raconteur Felix Lowe takes to the saddle and units out to beat the line from Barcelona to Rome. Powered by means of neighborhood cuisine, painkillers and imaginary enthusiasts, Lowe pedals his method via 3 nations and over 3 mountain levels, taking in a few of the sport's so much fabled climbs.

Following within the tracks of the world's maximum wheelmen, he places specialist cycling's 3 significant degree races - the journey de France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro d'Italia - less than the microscope, when shooting the powerful mixture of insanity, humour and human spirit that fuels level winners and pedal spinners alike.

Tracing the footsteps of the prestigious Carthaginian normal Hannibal, who led his personal pachyderm peloton of thirty-seven elephants over the Alps and the entire option to the gates of Rome, Lowe's epic quest will pay homage to the game, examines the psychology of either the crazed beginner and the pedalling seasoned, and delves into the outstanding march of an army genius who virtually introduced the Roman Empire to its knees.

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The importance of these findings hinges on how, for sports stars, the celebrity persona becomes the bedrock and foundation of their self and social identity. So long as its performance can be successfully managed and publicly sustained, the individual benefits from the attention, recognition, esteem and status that it attracts (although maintaining the performance can on occasion be of considerable stress, requiring constant reflexive self-monitoring and self-censorship, and demanding that they forgo any behaviour that might contradict the master status).

Irrespective of the ultimate success or failure of the performance, my interest here is in better understanding how disgraced stars go about rendering their self-presentation in the face of stigma – what I call their ‘exculpatory self-narratives’. In the next section, I will introduce some of the pivotal stigma-management techniques that configure such narratives. Managing stigma through techniques of neutralisation Alongside Goffman’s account of self-presentation and impression management, I draw centrally upon Sykes and Matza’s theory of ‘techniques of neutralisation’ (1957).

0007  Crime, Deviance and Doping Resentments accumulate over time as the ‘clean’ competitors are routinely beaten with ease by the ‘dopers’: One thousand mornings of waking with hope; a thousand afternoons of being crushed. ) I’d given heart and soul to my sport and hadn’t come anywhere near a medal position. Something wasn’t right. (Chambers, 2009: 38) I felt that I couldn’t do anything against them ... Taking on the riders on EPO seemed like an impossible task when you were clean ... I’d grown to hate the suffering and humiliation of always finishing so far behind the front of the race.

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