27 May 2011
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Improved research techniques from WADA-funded study

WADA is confident that new survey techniques will allow the agency to gain greater insight into the prevalence of athletes who use performance-enhancing substances.

One of the problems faced by researchers is that athletes who have doped also fail to give honest answers when completing confidential questionnaires - no matter how much their anonymity is guaranteed.

Results from a recent study part-funded by WADA have confirmed that individuals who have taken banned drugs are likely to manipulate answers so they fit the image of someone who is clean, even strongly anti doping.

The study was carried out by a team headed by Professor Andrea Petroczi from the School of Life Sciences at Kingston University in London.

Professor Petroczi, who surveyed 82 athletes competing at various levels, found patterns in the answers of those who denied using any prohibited substances which indicated they were deliberately trying to cover their tracks.

"The really interesting group included those people who denied using any drugs but then tested positive," Petroczi said.

"This group appeared to have manipulated every aspect of the questionnaire they filled in to fit the typical profile of what they thought would be a non-user."

WADA hopes that the methodology can be refined so that it can be used for future surveys to give accurate measurements of athletes who dope.

Previous methods included asking the question directly to athletes in confidential surveys, but - as the recent study showed - the results are not reliable.

Clearly those involved in prohibited behavior are reluctant to respond honestly, but the new techniques should allow researchers to account for such manipulation in the search for accuracy.

“WADA is currently funding innovative research on developing methods that will bring the anti-doping community closer to honest answers,” said Rob Koehler, WADA Director of Education and Program Development.

“It’s important not only for anti-doping, but for many other areas of public health, because effective policies need reliable statistics and information.

“More research is currently being undertaken and WADA looks forward to the outcomes. These will allow to a better understanding of the problem of doping.”

Click here for access to the study.