Enhancing the Self: Amateur Bodybuilders Making Sense of Experiences With Appearance and Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Enhancing the Self: Amateur Bodybuilders Making Sense of Experiences With Appearance and Performance-Enhancing Drugs / Juraj Macho, Jiri Mudrak, Pavel Slepicka. - (Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2021) 648467 (11 June); p. 1-14)

  • PMID: 34177704
  • PMCID: PMC8232052
  • DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648467


In this paper, we implemented a methodological framework of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and a theoretical conceptualization of multiple selves to explore the subjective accounts of six amateur bodybuilders using appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs). The participants made sense of their bodybuilding careers and experiences with APEDs in a way that showed a multiplicity and complexity of reasons for using APEDs, which stemmed from tensions they perceived between the context of bodybuilding and other life domains. The participants' reasons for the use of APEDs included not only enhancing their body, appearance and performance but also enhancing other subjectively important psychological characteristics, such as agency and self-control, the development of knowledge and expertise, sense of meaning, well-being, and quality of life. In the analysis, we integrated these themes through the concept of the "extraordinary self," based on which our participants strived for self-actualization through bodybuilding and the use of APEDs. In the sense making of our participants, a potential "exit point" subverting their APED use emerged from a tension between such "extraordinary selves" and the "ordinary selves" through which they perceived APEDs as preventing them from living normal, balanced lives outside the context of bodybuilding. However, success in balancing the two selves also created the possibility of the future use of APEDs.

Original document


Research / Study
11 June 2021
Macho, Juraj
Mudrak, Jiri
Slepicka, Pavel
Czech Republic
Bodybuilding & Fitness (IFBB) - International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness
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Univerzita Karlova - Charles University
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
Medical terms
Body image
Psychiatric disorders
Amateur / club / recreational sport
Document category
Scientific article
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Pdf file
Date generated
7 October 2021
Date of last modification
2 December 2021
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