Abstract| Volume 12, SUPPLEMENT , S82, January 2009

Factors influencing Australian elite athletes’ decisions to use performance enhancing drugs—Qualitative evidence

      Introduction: Despite limited theoretical postulates about the factors that underlie elite athletes’ decisions to use performance enhancing substances or methods (PESM), there is little empirical evidence. This paper reports the qualitative phase of research designed to address this gap. Method: Athletes, coaches, sports nutritionists, sports physiotherapists and sports administrators were interviewed (n = 20) to develop a list of factors thought to influence athletes’ decisions to use PESM. This is the first phase towards development of an empirical choice model of athlete PESM use. Results and Conclusions: The qualitative research identified 11 factors as influences on athlete PESM use. “Winning” was a significant influence; deconstruction of “winning” identified athletes’ concerns over money, the contingencies put on that money (e.g. prize, sponsorship, salary), expected performance outcomes and their stage of career. Deterrence was broadly captured by perceived likelihood of detection, likelihood of successful prosecution, the health effects of use and consequences of being caught (e.g. public humiliation). The remaining factors were timing of injury before an event and source of information (e.g. senior athlete). While it was unsurprising that winning was important, what that meant to athletes and their PESM behaviour could be characterised as economically rational. Major Findings: Even though it is unsurprising that winning was a significant influence in athletes’ decisions to use PESM, the factors that define winning are characteristically economically rational in the context of specific circumstances (e.g. injury). These results form the basis for subsequent quantitative study into the relative importance of these factors in their decision making.
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