Player and athlete attitudes to drugs in Australian sport:implications for policy development

Bob Stewart, Aaron Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports on 12 case histories with a view to 1) uncovering the attitudes of players and athletes to drugs in sport, and 2) exploring the implications of these attitudes for the formulation of effective anti-doping policy. The theoretical approach of the research was informed by Zinberg's (1984) model which assumes that the relationship between the drug, individual characteristics and context are pivotal to choices about drug use. A theoretical sampling frame was derived using two key discriminators based on their empirical prevalence as important variables: i) the level of a sport's commercial involvement, and ii) a sport's masculine values as determined by aggressiveness, contact and propensity for risk-taking. The additional 'discovered' sample criterion 'performance level' was subsequently included based on emergent data. A narrative-based case-history was utilized as the analytical method employing Gee's (1986) coding approach. Results suggested that attitudes are contingent upon first, the legality of the substance, second, its performance impact, and finally, its social impact. If a substance is not illegal, provides performance support, expedites recovery, or makes the user feel better, then it is considered legitimate. Unlike previous analysis, these results demonstrate that substance use in sport is neither a matter of linear and logical decision-making nor one of fundamental morality for players and athletes. The results suggest that drug-management policies which are underpinned by punitive models of moral certitude and deterrence do not match with prevailing attitudes, and are therefore unlikely to be successful in eradicating drug use from sport in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


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