In force

The relationship between moral code, participation in sport, and attitudes towards performance enhancing drugs in young people

Principal investigator
J. Skinner
T. Engelberg
S. Moston
Griffith University
Year approved
Adolescent, Youth, Talent-level, Children, Attitudes toward doping

Project description

The general aims of this project were to:

1. Identify factors that motivate young athletes to use performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)

2. Identify factors that deter young athletes from using PEDs.


The project consisted of two related studies: a survey study of 312 school‐aged (12‐17 years) athletes and non‐athletes, and a second survey study of 876 school‐aged athletes and non‐athletes. In both studies, athletes comprised approximately one half of the sample. Data for both studies were collected face to face through printed surveys. Data collection sites included sports clubs, associations and schools in the state of Queensland (Australia). The athlete participants were, at the time of each study, competing at a regional level or above (including state representative level and international level).


The findings of the present research show that there is a clear link between moral functioning, as originally conceptualized by Rest (1984) and attitudes towards PEDs. There is also a clear link between moral disengagement, as originally conceptualized by Bandura (1991) and attitudes towards PEDs. In short, morality, however it is theoretically conceptualized and operationalized, predicts attitudes to doping.  It is necessary to develop training programs that aim to educate young athletes and thus deter future drug use. However, there are some conceptual issues that should be addressed before embarking on any such efforts. While the current study shows a strong link between morality and attitudes to PEDs, when asked to identify the ‘top of mind’ disadvantages of PED use, the respondents overwhelmingly identified health related problems.


Significance for Clean Sport

Future research employing measures of morality based on both Rest’s and Bandura’s may be warranted, particularly if placed in a broader framework aiming to develop a reliable and valid measure of morality in sporting contexts. This should clearly include contexts such as PED use.


Related publications

Self-fulfilling prophecy and the future of doping


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