Athletes’ use of prohibited ergogenic substances for performance enhancement is aform of cheating behaviour which can jeopardise both their health and their careers.Given such importance, it is not surprising that the problem of drug-use in competitivesport has been widely studied. Unfortunately, research in this field has at least threeobvious limitations. First, few studies have attempted to explain why athletes are willingto use these substances, given the risks involved (Anshel, 2005). Second, little efforthas been made to understand the theoretical mechanisms underlying cheating/dopingbehaviour in athletes. Finally, there is a paucity of research on elite athletes’ attitudesto, and beliefs about, doping in sport. These oversights are unfortunate because antidopingmeasures cannot be fully effective unless they are based on solid evidenceabout why athletes (especially elite performers) engage in drug-taking in the first place.To address these gaps in the literature, the first phase of the present study examinesthe psychological variables underlying attitudes to drug use in sport.To date, 375 high performance (HP) athletes have been surveyed on theirattitudes to doping, and a number of relevant psychological variables have also beenmeasured. Interesting findings have emerged on the perceived and reported incidenceof doping in sport, athletes’ knowledge of doping substances and differences in attitudesbetween various demographic groups. Statistical results also show some significantrelationships emerging between doping attitudes and psychological characteristics,including perfectionist tendencies and motivational variables. This is the first time anempirical investigation has examined such a multitude of relationships, and the resultshave guided the next stage of the research; a qualitative focus on the views of athleteswho have direct experience of doping.Phase 2 of the study involved exhaustive searches of media reports, seekingathletes who publicly admitted to engaging in doping practices. Over a 30-month period,this list extended to almost 80 elite athletes who were identified as potential interviewcandidates for this qualitative phase of the research. Following the compilation of thelist, efforts were made to contact these athletes through their national governing bodies,national anti-doping agencies, and journalists with whom they had spoken in the past.However, this proved much more difficult than originally anticipated for two reasons:(a) because it was not possible to obtain contact details for high profile athletes and (b)because those who were contacted were not willing to partake in the research, despiteassurances of anonymity and confidentiality. The sample size totals 4 athletes who haveadmitted doping offences, but in light of the very limited number of potential participantsand the sensitive nature of the research topic, this was a reasonable number from whichto extract a thematic analysis. Interesting explorations of both the internal and externalsources of influence on athletes’ doping practices emerged, along with more in-depthanalysis of the psychological variables which may guide doping decisions.The final stage of the research, the development and validation of a dopingattitudes and behaviour scale (DABS) will be informed by findings from both theaforementioned quantitative and qualitative research studies.
|Number of pages||40|
|Publication status||Published - 16 May 2008|