To dope or not to dope: Elite athletes’ perceptions of doping deterrents and incentives



Overbye M, Knudsen ML & Pfister G (2013) To dope or not to dope: Elite athletes’ perceptions of doping deterrents and incentives. Performance Enhancement and Health, 2 (3), pp. 119-134.

Aim: This study aims to examine the circumstances which athletes say affect their (hypothetical) considerations of whether to dope or not and explore the differences between athletes of different gender, ageand sport type.  Methods: 645 elite athletes (mean age: 22.12; response rate: 43%) representing 40 sports completed aweb-based questionnaire. Participants were asked to imagine themselves in a situation in which theyhad to decide whether to dope or not to dope and then evaluate how different circumstances would affecttheir decisions.  Results: Multiple circumstances had an effect on athletes’ hypothetical decisions. The most effective deter-rents were related to legal and social sanctions, side-effects and moral considerations. Female athletesand younger athletes evaluated more reasons as deterrents than older, male athletes. When confrontedwith incentives to dope, the type of sport was often a more decisive factor. Top incentives were related toqualified medical assistance, improved health or faster recovery from injury, the low risk of being caughtand the threat posed to an elite career.  Conclusions: Our results reveal that numerous circumstances affect athletes’ thoughts on doping andathletes of different gender, age and sport type reacted differently to a variety of circumstances that maypotentially deter or trigger doping. Particularly notable findings were the potential role of doctors inathletes’ doping and that the current punitive anti-doping approach seems to deter athletes, althoughthe fear of social sanctions was almost as great a deterrent.  Implications: Anti-doping prevention strategies should be diversified to target specific groups of athletes.

Anti-doping policy; Doping; Elite athletes; Gender; Sports medicine

Performance Enhancement and Health: Volume 2, Issue 3

Publication date30/09/2013
Publication date online05/08/2013
Date accepted by journal03/07/2013

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Dr Marie Overbye
Dr Marie Overbye

Lecturer in Sport Management, Sport