Can we better integrate the role of anti-doping in sports and society? A psychological approach to contemporary value-based prevention

Petroczi, A., Norman, P. and Brueckner, S. (2017) Can we better integrate the role of anti-doping in sports and society? A psychological approach to contemporary value-based prevention. In: Rabin, O. and Pitsiladis, Y., (eds.) Acute topics in anti-doping. Basel, Switzerland : Karger. pp. 160-176. (Medicine and Sport Science, (62)) ISSN (print) 0254-5020 ISBN 9783318060430


In sport, a wide array of substances with established or putative performance-enhancing properties is used. Most substances are fully acceptable, whilst a defined set, revised annually, is prohibited; thus, using any of these prohibited substances is declared as cheating. In the increasingly tolerant culture of pharmacological and technical human enhancements, the traditional normative approach to anti-doping, which involves telling athletes what they cannot do to improve their athletic ability and performance, diverges from the otherwise positive values attached to human improvement and enhancement in society. Today, doping is the epitome of conflicting normative expectations about the goal (performance enhancement) and the means by which the goal is achieved (use of drugs). Owing to this moral-functional duality, addressing motivations for doping avoidance at the community level is necessary, but not sufficient, for effective doping prevention. Relevant and meaningful anti-doping must also recognise and respect the values of those affected, and consolidate them with the values underpinning structural, community level anti-doping. Effective anti-doping efforts are pragmatic, positive, preventive, and proactive. They acknowledge the progressive nature of how a "performance mindset" forms in parallel with the career transition to elite level, encompasses all levels and abilities, and directly addresses the reasons behind doping use with tangible solutions. For genuine integration into sport and society, anti-doping should consistently engage athletes and other stakeholders in developing positive preventive strategies to ensure that anti-doping education not only focuses on the intrinsic values associated with the spirit of sport but also recognises the values attached to performance enhancement, addresses the pressures athletes are under, and meets their needs for practical solutions to avoid doping. Organisations involved in anti- doping should avoid the image of "controlling" but, instead, work in partnerships with all stakeholders to involve and ensure integration of the targeted individuals in global community-based preventive interventions.

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