Substance use in university sport: A cross-national study of student-athlete substance use behaviors and perceived responses to witnessing substance use

Substance use in university sport : A cross-national study of student-athlete substance use behaviors and perceived responses to witnessing substance use / Kelsey Erickson, Nicholas Stanger, Laurie Patterson, Susan H. Backhouse. - (Performance Enhancement & Health 7 (2019) 1-2 (September-December); 100151)


Substance use among university student-athlete populations is a growing concern but research addressing this issue is primarily confined to the US. Also, the exposure of witnessing other student-athletes using substances and how student-athletes may respond when witnessing other athletes taking substances across countries and gender is unknown. This research aimed to address these issues.

A cross-sectional design was employed.

Student-athletes from the US (N = 208), UK (N = 201) and Canada (N = 159) completed measures of reported substance use, witnessing substance use, and (anticipated) responses to addressing peers’ substance use.

Chi-square and logistic regression analyses revealed that country and gender were associated with various outcomes. Key findings include that differences in substance use as a function of country was largely substance-specific, and a higher proportion of men than women reported using most supplements apart from vitamins and minerals, and dietary based supplements. A higher proportion of athletes in Canada and USA reported they would “confront the individual” if they witnessed a peer taking dietary supplements, prescription medication and banned appearance and performance enhancing substances than in UK. Also, a higher proportion of women than men reported they would “report to someone else” (e.g., coach, sport governing body) if they witnessed peers taking substances.

Although a convenience sample from nine universities across the three countries participated in this research, our findings provide initial evidence for the role of gender and country in relation to athletes’ substance use behaviors and anticipated responses to addressing substance use. These findings underline the importance of conducting context-specific and cross-national research to help facilitate tailored substance use education for student-athletes.


Research / Study
2 December 2019
Backhouse, Susan H.
Erickson, Kelsey
Patterson, Laurie B.
Stanger, Nicolas
United Kingdom
Other organisations
Leeds Beckett University (LBU)
Medical terms
Substance use research
Document category
Date generated
23 January 2020
Date of last modification
11 May 2022
  • Legal Source
  • Education
  • Science
  • Statistics
  • History
Country & language
  • Country
  • Language
Other filters
  • ADRV
  • Legal Terms
  • Sport/IFs
  • Other organisations
  • Laboratories
  • Analytical aspects
  • Doping classes
  • Substances
  • Medical terms
  • Various
  • Version
  • Document category
  • Document type
Publication period