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« Effect of Network Structure on Consensus | Main | Networking (Social) Science Networks »

21 May 2007

Brokerage vs. Cohesion: How Social Network Structure Could Influence Doping Investigations

The exclusion of Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, two of the top favorites for the Tour de France 2006 victory, from the race one day prior to its start shook the professional bicycle racing scene. Both riders have been and still are suspected to have been part of the doping network of the Spanish physician Eufemiano Fuentes. Almost one year later, observers, lawyers, and journalists are still trying to shed light into the activities within the latter network. However, very few results have been achieved until today. From a network research standpoint, one could ask the question why is it so difficult to get access to information in this case?

From a structural social network perspective, two answers appear worthwhile giving some more thoughts
(1) Cohesion-Argument: In professional bicycle racing, everybody knows that everybody else is using to gain or maintain performance during bicycle races. According to Coleman's social capital argument this would mean that everybody in the community of professional racers expects from everybody else not to say a word of what is going on. Such collective action of keeping everything secret thus hinders observers to shed more light into this situation.

(2) Brokerage-Argument: Nobody in the scene knows what other riders are doing do gain or maintain race performance. Only a few key people - brokers such as the physician Eufemiano Fuentes - are aware of what is going on. In this case, only these key people or gatekeepers might provide a potential pathway to more information on what is going on in the scene. In this scenario, riders will not offer any insights into potential doping network as long as they consider their careers as threatened.

It will be interesting to see how this story evolves and which of the two scenarios might hold at the end.

Posted by Thomas Langenberg at May 21, 2007 8:00 AM