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Home > The development and validation of a doping attitudes and behaviour scale. Report to World Anti-Doping Agency & The Irish Sports Council.

Moran, Aidan and Guerin, Suzanne and Kirby, Kate and MacIntyre, Tadhg (2008) The development and validation of a doping attitudes and behaviour scale. Report to World Anti-Doping Agency & The Irish Sports Council. Dublin: UCD School of Psychology.

PDF (The development and validation of a doping scale) - Published Version

• Executive summary
• Literature search results
• Overview of the research
• Phase 1: Pilot study
• Phase 1: Quantitative measurement of doping attitudes
• Phase 2: Implications from Phase 1 and pilot study
• Phase 2: Qualitative Examination of Perspectives on Doping
• Final conclusions and recommendations
• Presentations, Publications and International Dissemination
• References
• Appendices.

Athletes’ use of prohibited ergogenic substances for performance enhancement is a form 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 competitive sport has been widely studied. Unfortunately, research in this field has at least three obvious limitations. First, few studies have attempted to explain why athletes are willing to use these substances, given the risks involved (Anshel, 2005). Second, little effort has been made to understand the theoretical mechanisms underlying cheating/doping behaviour in athletes. Finally, there is a paucity of research on elite athletes’ attitudes to, and beliefs about, doping in sport. These oversights are unfortunate because anti-doping measures cannot be fully effective unless they are based on solid evidence about 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 examines the psychological variables underlying attitudes to drug use in sport.

To date, 375 high performance (HP) athletes have been surveyed on their attitudes to doping, and a number of relevant psychological variables have also been measured. Interesting findings have emerged on the perceived and reported incidence of doping in sport, athletes’ knowledge of doping substances and differences in attitudes between various demographic groups. Statistical results also show some significant relationships emerging between doping attitudes and psychological characteristics, including perfectionist tendencies and motivational variables. This is the first time an empirical investigation has examined such a multitude of relationships, and the results have guided the next stage of the research; a qualitative focus on the views of athletes who have direct experience of doping.

Phase 2 of the study involved exhaustive searches of media reports, seeking athletes 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 interview candidates for this qualitative phase of the research. Following the compilation of the list, 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, despite assurances of anonymity and confidentiality. The sample size totals 4 athletes who have admitted doping offences, but in light of the very limited number of potential participants and the sensitive nature of the research topic, this was a reasonable number from which to extract a thematic analysis. Interesting explorations of both the internal and external sources of influence on athletes’ doping practices emerged, along with more in-depth analysis of the psychological variables which may guide doping decisions.

The final stage of the research, the development and validation of a doping attitudes and behaviour scale (DABS) will be informed by findings from both the aforementioned quantitative and qualitative research studies.

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