Doping and supplementation: the attitudes of talented young athletes


Corresponding author: M. J. McNamee, School of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK. Tel: 01 792 295 611, Fax: 01 792 295 769, E-mail:


There is evidence of a small but significant proportion of adolescents engaging in doping practices. Young athletes face very specific pressures to achieve results as they strive for a career at an elite level. This study used an anonymized questionnaire to survey 403 (12–21 years old) talented young athletes' attitudes toward performance-enhancing substances and supplements. Two-thirds of the sample comprised males. Athletes were generally against the use of doping substances to enhance sporting performance. Within this generally unfavorable view, males tended to express a more permissive attitude toward performance-enhancing methods than females. Those convinced of the necessity of supplementation for sporting success were also more likely to express permissive attitudes. When asked whether they would take a “magic” drug that, while undetectable, would significantly enhance performance, the overwhelming majority of athletes said “no,” but many thought others would take the substance. Interestingly, there was a significant association between the projected use of the hypothetical drug by competitors and the individual respondent's willingness to take the hypothetically “magic” substance. The study offers an insight into young athletes' attitudes toward specific forms of performance enhancement, and the strength of their beliefs in the face of a tempting hypothetical scenario.