Young athletes’ psychological predispositions for doping

Dr.Hab., Professor S.I. Filimonova1
PhD, Associate Professor V.M. Smirnov2
PhD, Associate Professor N.N. Uvarova2
E.A. Khristenko3
M.N. Pukhovskaya1
1Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow
2Gzhel State University, Gzhel
3Russian Anti-Doping Agency RUSADA, Moscow

Keywords: doping, psychological predispositions, junior athletes, doping control.

Background. Doping issues are ranked high on the list of priorities by the modern global sports. For the period since the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro much has been done by our country in the doping control domain including a new national doping control plan that is being updated on a regular basis to expand the list of prohibited agents; research studies; public awareness/ elucidation anti-doping campaigns; doping control specialist trainings etc. However, despite the growing sensitivity of the national and international sports to the doping issues, the relevant mental aspects, including the individual predispositions to doping, are still largely underexplored. A few study reports on the individual mental factors of influence on the doping immunity have been focused on the moral tolerance to doping in the athletic communities; doping usage excusing ideology that cultivates, among other things, a belief in usefulness of doping; self-assertion related excuses etc. [1, 2]. Researchers of the individual mental predispositions for doping underline a few factors of influence including the external locus of control and low stamina [3].

Objective of the study was to analyze mental predispositions for doping in young athletes qualified for the XXIX World Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk.

Methods and structure of the study. The XXIX World Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk has been ranked among the top sport events for the last few years, with 2643 participants including 1692 athletes from 58 countries and 643 universities being qualified for them. Sampled for the survey were the 17-28 year old athletes (n=122) including 89 nationals and 33 foreign athletes who were offered to a questionnaire survey form of 10 questions.

Results and discussion. The question ‘Are you competing in a top international event for the first time?’ was responded negatively by 82% of the sample, with this experienced share being 84% national and 76% foreign. This means that the sample was dominated by the experienced athletes, former qualifiers of the alike top-ranking international events.  

The question ‘Have you had an anti-doping training?’ was responded positively by 66% of the sample who reported different awareness/ elucidation training courses – that means that the trainings are fairly active in our country and abroad. The proportion of the national athletes in this share was still lower than the foreign ones (64% versus 70%) that means that further national efforts are needed in this domain.

The question ‘Do you believe some rules and prohibitions may be neglected when badly needed?’ was responded positively by 10% of the sample including 9% and 12% of the national and foreign subsamples. Generally, the athletes prone to violations are driven by asocial motivations, being prepared to come in conflict with the moral imperatives, social standards and opinions for doping. Low immunity to doping associated with the marginal behavioral models intended to test the limits and act on the verge of them – are typical for this athletic group.

The question ‘Do you often feel the need for new impressions and strong feelings?’ was responded positively by 38% of the sample including 45% national and 18% foreign athletes driven by the last to new sensations and eager to test doping agents for experimental purposes and competitive success at the same time. We still believe that this doping motivation may unlikely give rise to an addiction albeit this group is at risk due to the proneness to experiments and new experiences that urge them to constantly look for new drugs for the competitive progress. It should be noted that the national athletes are prone to such experiments much larger than the foreign ones that may be indicative of some shortage of the perceived self-fulfillment opportunities and new impressions on the home turf.

The question ‘Would you take doping if you knew that your families may know about that?’ was responded positively by 8% of the sample including 9% national and 6% foreign athletes. This may mean that the family influence is relatively low and may not be efficiently used for the anti-doping campaigning purposes. The somewhat higher proportion of the national positive responses may be explained by the still relatively high patriarchal nature of the Russian society with its higher dependence on families.

The question ‘Do you think that pleasure is one of the greatest life goals?’ to explore hedonistic attitudes in the sample was responded positively by 40% of the sample including 39% national and 42% foreign athletes. The hedonistically motivated athletes are known to make resort to doping to kill pain and faster rehabilitate after the sport-specific physical and mental stresses. This doping motivation may result in serious addictions. It should be also mentioned that the hedonistic motivations and mindsets driven by pleasures with the ill-perceived life quality improvements come in conflict with the hard trainings and their maximal physical and mental stresses an athlete must stand for competitive progress.

The question ‘Do you think that wins are above all in sports and should be secured by whatever means?’ to find the potentially topmost motivation for doping (that is to enhance the physical and mental capacity, performance, strength, agility, endurance etc.) – was responded positively by only 13% of the sample including 16% national and 6% foreign athletes. The dominating proportion of the national athletes may be interpreted as the higher indiscrimination of our compatriots with their desire to win at any cost. Nevertheless, it is obvious that this motivation was not among the most widespread in the sample.

The question ‘If you happen to know that your teammate have used doping and won, would your report the case?’ was responded positively by 35% of the national and 48% of the foreign subsamples, with the difference possibly explained by the traditional negativism to ‘betrayals’.

The question ‘Would you make resort to doping if it is the only way to make success in your sport?’ was responded positively by only 4% of the sample including 2% national and 9% foreign athletes – that shows the dominating negative attitudes of the young athletes to doping and, possibly, success of the anti-doping campaigning, particularly in Russia.

The last question ‘Would you be happy with your teammate win if you know that he/she takes doping?’ was responded positively by only 14% of the sample including 13% national and 15% foreign athletes. The result may be interpreted as indicative of the deep-rooted fair play principle in the modern sports and negative attitudes to unfair wins on doping.

Conclusion. The survey data and analysis showed progress of the doping control initiatives including the relevant legal and regulatory provisions, multiple research projects, service personnel training initiatives, anti-doping advocacy campaigns etc. Young athletes were found aware of the negative health costs of doping that cannot be offset by unfair and illegal competitive accomplishments. It was also found that the doping control issues are still relevant and important for progress of the modern sports. The still remaining predispositions for doping are dominated by hedonistic, pain-killer and rehabilitation process spurring motivations plus the individual last for new sensations and impressions with the doping tested mostly for curiosity.

References

  1. Bondarev D.V., Galchinskiy V.A. Problema dopinga: sotsiologicheskie aspekty i determinanty povedeniya [Problem of doping: sociological aspects and determinants of behavior]. [Electronic resource]. Available at: http: //archive.nbuv.gov.ua/portal/Soc_Gum/Snsv/2009_3/09bodabd.pdf
  2. Karina O.V., Malyuchenko G.N. Vliyanie sorevnovatelnogo opyita na sotsialnye predstavleniya molodykh sportsmenov [Effect of competitive experience on social ideas of junior athletes]. Doping kak fenomen iskazhennoy samodeterminatsii [Doping as a phenomenon of distorted self-determination]. Proc. res.-practical conference with international participation. Saratov: Saratovskiy istochnik, 2012. pp. 13-17.
  3. Medvedeva L.I., Grushko A.I., Grushko N.V. Psikhologicheskie aspekty upotrebleniya dopinga v sporte [Psychological aspects of doping in sports]. Omskiy nauchny vestnik. 2014. no. 4 (131). pp. 101-104.

Corresponding author: filimonovasi@mail.ru

Abstract

Doping issues are ranked high on the list of priorities by the modern global sports. The present article analyzes the psychological predispositions of young athletes for doping found by a questionnaire survey timed to the XXIX World Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk. The survey data and analysis showed progress of the doping control initiatives including the relevant legal and regulatory provisions, multiple research projects, service personnel training initiatives, anti-doping advocacy campaigns etc. Young athletes were found aware of the negative health costs of doping that cannot be offset by unfair and illegal competitive accomplishments. It was also found that the doping control issues are still relevant and important for progress of the modern sports. The still remaining predispositions for doping are dominated by hedonistic, pain-killer and rehabilitation process spurring motivations plus the individual last for new sensations and impressions with the doping tested mostly for curiosity.