World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) Funded Project Examining The Gateway Hypothesis Of Doping In Sport

The effects of permitted forms of performance enhancement on determinants of doping in UK student-athletes.

Use of permitted forms of performance enhancement (e.g., nutritional supplements, medicines, performance enhancing technology) may facilitate athletes’ progression towards use of performance enhancing drugs (often referred to as doping). However, research testing this process – termed the gateway hypothesis of doping in sport – has only looked at this issue at a single point in time. As such, the effects of permitted performance enhancement techniques on doping over time are yet to be tested. One way of addressing this limitation in knowledge would be to investigate whether use of permitted forms of performance enhancement leads to changes in known determinants of doping over time. Three likely indicators of doping in sport are explicit doping attitudes (i.e., athletes’ positive evaluation of engagement in doping), automatic doping preferences (i.e., a collection of self-relevant thoughts regarding doping instinctively retrieved from memory) and doping moral disengagement (use of any of six psychological techniques that help athletes to justify and rationalize doping). Also of importance is that mid-to-late adolescence is thought to represent a key transitional life stage during which athletes may be particularly susceptible to gateway influences on doping, as attitudes towards doping are likely to be still forming at this stage. Given their life-stage, university-student-athletes may therefore be particularly susceptible to gateway influences of doping in sport. As such, the current project will investigate whether use of nutritional supplements, medicines, or performance enhancing technology leads to positive changes in university-student-athletes’ explicit doping attitudes, automatic doping preferences, and doping moral disengagement over time. Interestingly, although permitted forms of performance enhancement are thought to be potential gateways to doping, if presented correctly they could act as protective factors against it. More specifically, a recent model of doping behaviour (i.e., The Incremental Model of Doping Behavior) suggests availability of performance enhancement alternatives can weaken positive doping attitudes. However, there is a lack of research investigating how permitted forms of performance enhancement can be effectively presented as alternatives to doping. Therefore, to address this deficit in knowledge, the current project will also investigate which permitted forms of performance enhancement are commonly used by student athletes, and how they can be presented most effectively as alternatives to doping.

More information on our progress and details of how you can contribute to the research will be shared soon.