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Researchers uncover moral dilemmas doping athletes go through

ANI | Updated: May 11, 2019 22:15 IST

Washington DC [USA], May 11 (ANI): Athletes are less likely to take banned substances if they consider morality and not just the health consequences of doping, discovered researchers.
Doping in sports is the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.
According to a study published in the Journal of Psychology of Sport and Exercise, athletes were asked to complete a questionnaire about two hypothetical doping situations. Participants were male and female elite football players, competing just below professional levels.
In the first of the hypothetical scenarios, the athletes were asked to imagine they were trying to improve their performance after a period of disappointing results, while in the second, they were asked to imagine themselves in a situation, where they were recovering from an injury. Following each scenario, they were asked to indicate how likely they were to take the banned substance if they were in that situation.
Across the three countries, footballers indicated a relatively higher likelihood of doping for injury recovery than for performance enhancement.
The researchers looked specifically at the emotions and attitudes toward doping anticipated by the survey participants. They found that decisions were likely to be made based on how much guilt a person was expecting to feel.
Lead researcher, Dr Maria Kavussanu, explained: "If an athlete can justify their actions to themselves, they will feel less guilt, which makes them more likely to dope. If we reinforce the message that doping is cheating, athletes are less likely to do it."
Players who had a strong moral identity did not use justifications for doping, expected to feel more guilt for doping, and ultimately were less likely to dope.
The researchers also found that coaches' behaviour and the 'performance climate' in which athletes were training also had a significant effect on their doping likelihood.
If coaches were creating a climate in which players who made a mistake were penalised, or if they gave undue attention to the best players, athletes were more likely to turn towards banned substances. The coach can, therefore, play an important role in doping prevention.
The research findings are forming the basis for anti-doping interventions aimed at challenging players' attitudes towards banned substances.
"A lot of anti-doping messages warn athletes about taking supplements and stress the consequences of being found out you might be fined, or banned from the sport. But our research shows there could be a powerful moral message that is being overlooked in current anti-doping interventions worldwide. This type of messaging teaches athletes that doping is cheating and that it has consequences for fellow athletes and team members, as well as for your own health," added Dr Kavussanu.
Tony Cunningham, Senior Manager, Education at the World Anti-Doping Agency, said: "This study is another important step in further understanding the behaviour of doping and it gives valuable insights into how interventions can be tailored to more effectively prevent it from happening. Engaging athletes at a moral level is important, but how to do this and the types of messages an athlete should receive can be difficult to know. The research team has helped to better understand how these messages can be framed. (ANI)