In force Publication date 01 Oct 22

Animate: Anti-doping intervention in promotion clean sports behaviours

Principal investigator
F. Lucidi
A. Chirico
J. Gracia
A. Zelli
L. Mallia
Sapienza Università di Roma
Year approved
Education and prevention

Project description


To understand the reasons why athletes intentionally use banned substances or methods, antidoping research has focused on socio-cognitive factors in predicting doping behavior. However, very little is known about resources that may promote positive anti-doping outcomes in young athletes. In recent years, antidoping research shift the focus from understanding what drives some athletes to dope, to concentrating on how "clean athletes" behave. An emerging theme in anti-doping education programs is based on the assumption that with proper intervention athletes can adopt clean sports behaviors. The most recent anti-doping literature shows that personal values linked to ‘clean athlete identity’ are among the strongest protective factors. This new theme emphasizes the need for sport and anti-doping organizations to develop interventions that effectively support a prevention paradigm, targeting precisely the variables that can foster and support clean sports behaviors.

Furthermore, given the spread of the use of technology among the young, and the recent adoption of new forms of technology-driven education, also – but not only - because of the last pandemic event, there is also an opportunity in engaging athletes using new technological-driven antidoping interventions. Using new forms of digital education (e.g., e-learning and Serious Game), we can simulate real-life situations supporting the decision-making process and educating users on how it is possible to optimize their decisions. These tools provide representations of real-life conditions to modify attitudes and behaviors in different contexts, such as the field of health, education, and training.

In line with the above, the overall aim of the present project is to investigate psychological factors that may predict clean sports behaviors by developing, implementing, and evaluating Digital Learning Objects that focus on socio-cognitive variables and values targeting young athletes. In order to summarize the aims and research questions of our project, we could define three specific objectives. First, to develop, implement, and evaluate a novel digital anti-doping intervention targeting psychological mechanisms (e.g., motivational, and socio-cognitive variables) in predicting and promoting clean sport behaviors in young track and field athletes.



A randomized control trial design will be implemented. With a convenience sampling approach, a sample of a minimum of 200 young athletes in each country involved will be identified (i.e., Italy and France), for a total of at least 400 participants. The two country-based samples will be comparable in age, gender, and sport-competitive level. For each country, 50 eligible track and field athletes will be assigned to one of the four intervention groups: a digital clean-sports prevention intervention group, a digital knowledge-based group, a clean-sports face-to-face intervention, and a knowledge-based face-to-face group.



This is an ongoing three-years research project whose results are expected to be presented in 2026.


Potential significance for Clean Sport

The proposed research and innovative approach (i.e., digital-based intervention) are expected to have important implications for the promotion of clean sports behaviors. The study focuses on psychological mechanisms and values as protective factors for the young athlete, highlighting the importance of competing clean, rather than stressing the punitive role of sanctions. In light of this, and as argued above, we would adopt a new paradigm to prevent the use of doping, highlighting moral values and positive outcomes of clean athletes and supporting the athlete’s desire to compete clean. In fact, we would approach doping as a moral issue, adding a new perspective that contrasts with standard educational programs. Developing an effective digital intervention is also likely to have numerous advantages for spread and replicability, given the accessibility of such technology to athletes around the world. In this day and age, it is particularly important to adapt and implement digital tools, such as Serious Games, that will be more efficient in terms of time, cost and spread. Given the usability of the digital tools, implementing a digital-based intervention in anti-doping programs might contribute to standardizing the educational programs aimed to prevent doping behavior. The project intends to increase the literature knowledge regarding the predictors of clean sports behaviors, considering the role of moral values, motivation, and self-regulation. In conclusion, the present research promises to deliver novel social science research, which has the potential to lead to a significant change in the way preventive anti-doping programs are conducted until today.

Download options

Available in 1 language.