Attitudes and doping: A structural equation analysis of the relationship between athletes' attitudes, sport orientation and doping behaviour

Petroczi, Andrea (2007) Attitudes and doping: A structural equation analysis of the relationship between athletes' attitudes, sport orientation and doping behaviour. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2(34), ISSN (online) 1747-597X


BACKGROUND: For effective deterrence methods, individual, systemic and situational factors that make an athlete or athlete group more susceptible to doping than others should be fully investigated. Traditional behavioural models assume that the behaviour in question is the ultimate end. However, growing evidence suggests that in doping situations, the doping behaviour is not the end but a means to an end, which is gaining competitive advantage. Therefore, models of doping should include and anti-doping policies should consider attitudes or orientations toward the specific target end, in addition to the attitude toward the 'tool' itself. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to empirically test doping related dispositions and attitudes of competitive athletes with the view of informing anti-doping policy developments and deterrence methods. To this end, the paper focused on the individual element of the drug availability - athlete's personality - situation triangle. METHODS: Data were collected by questionnaires containing a battery of psychological tests among competitive US male college athletes (n = 199). Outcome measures included sport orientation (win and goal orientation and competitiveness), doping attitude, beliefs and self-reported past or current use of doping. A structural equation model was developed based on the strength of relationships between these outcome measures. RESULTS: Whilst the doping model showed satisfactory fit, the results suggested that athletes' win and goal orientation and competitiveness do not play a statistically significant role in doping behaviour, but win orientation has an effect on doping attitude. The SEM analysis provided empirical evidence that sport orientation and doping behaviour is not directly related. CONCLUSION: The considerable proportion of doping behaviour unexplained by the model suggests that other factors play an influential role in athletes' decisions regarding prohibited methods. Future research, followed by policy development, should incorporate these factors to capture the complexity of the doping phenomenon and to identify points for effective anti-doping interventions. Sport governing bodies and anti-doping organisations need to recognise that using performance enhancements may be more of a rational, outcome optimizing behaviour than deviance and consider offering acceptable alternative performance-enhancing methods to doping.

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