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According to a new study, top athletes can be persuaded not to take banned substances – either by appealing to their sense of morality or by educating them about the risks of using performance-enhancing drugs.
The researchers developed two separate intervention programs – one that targets moral factors related to the likelihood of doping, the other that introduces doping and provides information about the health effects of banned substances and the risks of sports supplements.
They tested both programs on top young athletes from the UK and Greece and found that both approaches equally deterred athletes from taking banned substances over a six-month period.
Led by sports scientists at the University of Birmingham and funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the results of the international research group are published today in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.
Dr. Maria Kavussanu of the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham said: “We need to take action to reduce doping in sport. This suggests that banned substances are being used at alarming levels, especially among elite athletes . ” where it is estimated that some over 50% of competitors use these drugs.
“Our research group is the first to develop and evaluate an intervention that focuses on moral variables and compares them to a concurrent educational intervention. Both programs have been effective in reducing the likelihood of doping in two countries – effects that persisted six months after the interventions were completed . “
The moral intervention targeted three variables known to be associated with the likelihood of doping: moral identity – focus on honesty and fairness; moral withdrawal – how individuals free themselves from responsibility; and moral atmosphere – whether doping was likely tolerated or condemned by teammates.
Researchers formulated the educational intervention to introduce the doping control process and discuss healthy eating habits while providing information on the consequences of taking banned substances and sports supplements. Whistleblowing was also dealt with.
“Our results suggest that anti-doping education programs should consider targeting moral variables in addition to their typical content such as providing information about the harms of prohibited substances,” added Dr. Kavussanu added.
“That the two interventions in the UK and Greece produced lasting changes suggests that they contained highly effective elements that are cross-cultural and relevant to athletes from different countries.”
As part of the “moral” program, young athletes compared different approaches to success – to win at any price and to be the best that one can be. They learned how important honesty and fair play are in sport and how doping undermines this.
Participants reflected on the justifications athletes use for doping and the impact doping has on others – stories from post-awarding athletes such as Kelly Sotherton, Adam Nelson and Valerie Adams.
The educational program introduced participants to WADA and its role in regulating doping in sport, established the doping control process, and introduced banned substances and the consequences they can have on athletes’ health.
The risks associated with common types of banned performance enhancing substances such as anabolic steroids, stimulants, and erythropoietin were discussed. Athletes also learned about the risks associated with sports supplements like protein, energy drinks, and creatine.
They also discussed the role of diet and its benefits in performance and recovery – they examined their own diet using the MyFitnessPal app and identified the areas of their diet that could be improved.
Athletes who use sports supplements are more open to doping
Moral Intervention Reduces Chances of Doping in British and Greek Athletes: Evidence from Cluster Randomized Control Study, Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, DOI: 10.1123 / .JSEP.2019-0313 Provided by the University of Birmingham
Quote: Anti-Doping Awareness: Teaching Athletes About Morals In Sports Can Help Reduce Doping (2020, December 2), accessed December 2, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-12 -anti-doping-athletes-morality-sport-doping.html
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