A call for policy guidance on psychometric testing in doping control in sport / Andrea Petróczi, Susan H. Backhouse, Vassilis Barkoukis, Ralf Brand, Anne-Marie Elbe, Lambros Lazuras, Fabio Lucidi. - (International Journal of Drug Policy 26 (2015) 11 (November); p. 1130-1139)
- PMID: 26094122
- DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.04.022
One of the fundamental challenges in anti-doping is identifying athletes who use, or are at risk of using, prohibited performance enhancing substances. The growing trend to employ a forensic approach to doping control aims to integrate information from social sciences (e.g., psychology of doping) into organised intelligence to protect clean sport. Beyond the foreseeable consequences of a positive identification as a doping user, this task is further complicated by the discrepancy between what constitutes a doping offence in the World Anti-Doping Code and operationalized in doping research. Whilst psychology plays an important role in developing our understanding of doping behaviour in order to inform intervention and prevention, its contribution to the array of doping diagnostic tools is still in its infancy. In both research and forensic settings, we must acknowledge that (1) socially desirable responding confounds self-reported psychometric test results and (2) that the cognitive complexity surrounding test performance means that the response-time based measures and the lie detector tests for revealing concealed life-events (e.g., doping use) are prone to produce false or non-interpretable outcomes in field settings. Differences in social-cognitive characteristics of doping behaviour that are tested at group level (doping users vs. non-users) cannot be extrapolated to individuals; nor these psychometric measures used for individual diagnostics. In this paper, we present a position statement calling for policy guidance on appropriate use of psychometric assessments in the pursuit of clean sport. We argue that, to date, both self-reported and response-time based psychometric tests for doping have been designed, tested and validated to explore how athletes feel and think about doping in order to develop a better understanding of doping behaviour, not to establish evidence for doping. A false 'positive' psychological profile for doping affects not only the individual 'clean' athlete but also their entourage, their organisation and sport itself. The proposed policy guidance aims to protect the global athletic community against social, ethical and legal consequences from potential misuse of psychological tests, including erroneous or incompetent applications as forensic diagnostic tools in both practice and research.