Cognitive enhancing drug use by students in the context of neoliberalism: cheating? Or, a legitimate expression of competitive entrepreneurialism?

14 Aug 2020

Cognitive enhancing drug use by students in the context of neoliberalism: cheating? Or, a legitimate expression of competitive entrepreneurialism? / John Mann

  • International Journal of Drug Policy 95 (2021) 102907
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102907


A recurrent theme regarding drug policy and the use of cognitive enhancing drugs (CEDs) by students in higher education (HE), concerns the potential introduction of policy to prohibit the use of CEDs. One of the arguments put forward to support a prohibitive policy framework, is that the use of CEDs by students in HE is a form of academic misconduct; that the use of CEDs constitutes cheating. Now, given that it is widely documented that the use of CEDs by students in HE has been growing steadily over the past decade or more, there is surprisingly, a dearth of in-depth discussion on the topic of whether their use represents academic misconduct and is a form of cheating. Therefore, this commentary will summarise some examples of literature dedicated to the topic, before discussing whether the use of CEDs by students in HE constitutes cheating, when framed contextually, around neoliberalism and the key characteristics of competition and entrepreneurialism. The commentary will propose a potentially useful argument that, given the neoliberal context and those key characteristics, (HE) students could in theory, legitimise their use of CEDs. Consequently, students using CEDs for the purpose of hypothetically increasing academic excellence, would not consider their use of CEDs as a form of academic misconduct, of cheating. Thus, this paper, would in principle, support and endorse a legal, regulatory approach to CED policy and in addition, recommends that individual HE institutions do not prohibit the use of CEDs by students on the grounds of academic misconduct, but instead, advance harm reduction initiatives around their use.

2,4 dinitrophenol: It's not just for men

16 Oct 2020

2,4 dinitrophenol : It's not just for men / Jennifer Germain, Conan Leavey, Marie Claire Van Hout, Jim McVeigh

  • International Journal of Drug Policy 95 (2021) 102987 (September)
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102987



2,4 dinitrophenol (DNP) is an organic compound which causes thermogenesis resulting in fat burning and weight loss. Although not licensed for human consumption, the globalised access to and information about this compound on the internet has prompted a renewed interest in DNP making it readily available to purchase online.  Studies into user experiences remain scarce and much of the previous literature has focused on DNP use in male dominated bodybuilding communities. While online accounts of female DNP use are plentiful, this group are under researched.


Ten online forums containing female discussion of DNP were identified and 440 threads subjected to a thematic analysis. Semi structured interviews were conducted with four forum moderators (all men) and one woman who reported use of DNP.


The findings highlighted diverse motivations for why women use DNP as well as differences in experiences, dosing regimens, willingness to take risks and adverse effects. Many women reported using online forums to seek advice and trusted the information they received. However, much of the discussion and protocols for use online is perpetuated by and geared towards men, with DNP seen as a ‘hard core’ drug that is not suitable for women. Female DNP use was frequently stigmatised because the potential risks were seen to be at odds with women's roles as mothers and caregivers. Women who used DNP were often ignored, ridiculed or seen as novice users, while men were viewed as the DNP experts.


This study provides an overview of female experiences of DNP use. There is a growing body of evidence as to the harms associated with this compound and there are no guaranteed ‘safe’ regimens that can be advocated for any potential user. Users equate deaths or ill harms from DNP with incorrect dosing or insufficient knowledge of the impact of the drug on the body. This leads women to incorrectly assume that if they are not suffering ill effects they are using DNP safely. Of key concern from this study is that within a vacuum of harm reduction advice, women are reported to be accepting DNP advice circulating in male-dominated forums and adopting the protocols of male bodybuilders with potentially fatal consequences. Furthermore, women using DNP are doing so without any ‘real world’ support, gender sensitive treatment pathways or interventions in place.

‘Bali over the Counter’: Exploring the Overseas Use and Acquisition of Anabolic-androgenic Steroids

12 Aug 2020

‘Bali over the Counter’ : Exploring the Overseas Use and Acquisition of Anabolic-androgenic Steroids / Matthew Dunn, Kyle J.D. Mulrooney, Dean Biddau, Fiona H. McKay, Richard Henshaw

  • Deviant Behavior 43 (2022) 4, p. 447-460
  • Volume 43, 2022 - Issue 4 447-460


In the bodybuilding and fitness communities, anecdotal evidence suggests that some take ‘steroid holidays’, traveling to and living in foreign countries so as to have greater access to performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs). This study aimed to explore this phenomenon. Discussions in bodybuilding, fitness, and PIED forums formed the basis of this study. Several websites were identified and keyword searches were used to identify potential ‘threads’, which were downloaded and thematically analyzed. Twenty-two threads consisting of 254 posts from 188 individual forum members were included. Two themes were identified: (1) Product purchasing and (2) Logistics. In the first theme, the purchase of the products for individual use was a key feature, with their motivations centered on perceptions of legality, purity, and risk. In the second theme, discussions focused those members who sought to use the PIEDs they sourced in a foreign country within that country versus using foreign-sourced PIEDs in Australia. The perception that steroids may be cheaper, more readily accessible, or of better quality in countries in close proximity to Australia may lead some to travel to low- or middle-income countries to use or access PIEDs which could lead to legal and health risks.

A systematic review of research into coach perspectives and behaviours regarding doping and anti-doping

14 Aug 2020

A systematic review of research into coach perspectives and behaviours regarding doping and anti-doping / Luke T. Barnes Laurie B. Patterson Susan H. Backhouse

  • Psychology of Sport and Exercise 59 (2022) 101780 (March)
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2020.101780


Doping threatens the integrity of sport and the health and wellbeing of athletes. Operating as both a risk and protective agent, coaches may influence athletes’ (anti-)doping thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The objective of this study was to systematically review empirical coach anti-doping literature over a 20-year period between World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) formation (1999) and the present day (2019) to help better understand coaches’ perspectives and behaviours in relation to doping and anti-doping in sport.


A systematic review was conducted using PRISMA guidelines.


Electronic searches of seven databases, twenty-four journals and citation pearl growing identified published studies between 1999 and 2019.


Thirty-eight studies were included in this review. Three higher order themes were identified (individual, behavioural and contextual factors), consisting of a total of five themes (self-reported behaviour, hypothetical behaviour, coach beliefs, knowledge, and psychosocial components). Findings documented a changing research landscape, which revealed a greater frequency of total publications and emergence of qualitative study designs in conjunction with the development and induction of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).


Over the last 20 years the anti-doping literature addressing coaches has developed and diversified from narrowly focused quantitative studies of coaches’ knowledge and beliefs, to broader considerations of behavioural and contextual factors through the use of qualitative and mixed/multi-method designs. Although the existing literature sheds some light on coaches’ perspectives and behaviours relating to doping prevention, further high-quality studies investigating the wider context surrounding coach behaviours, underpinned by meta-theory, are needed to fully understand the complexity of doping in sport and guide future policy and practice.

Inside a steroid ‘brewing’ and supply operation in South-West England: An ‘ethnographic narrative case study’

26 Nov 2019

Inside a steroid ‘brewing’ and supply operation in South-West England : An ‘ethnographic narrative case study’ / Luke A. Turnock

  • Performance Enhancement & Health 7 (2020) 3-4 (March), 100152
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.peh.2019.100152


In looking to contextualize the implications of the increasing use of IPEDs, researchers have explored some of the operations of the market in these drugs, both at the local level, and online. Whilst these explorations have offered some much needed insight into this market, there remain aspects of the supply process that are still not fully understood. This paper offers an ethnographic narrative case study of a single steroid ‘brewing’ and supply operation in South-West England, in order to help contribute to understanding of this supply process, and the broader market for IPEDs. This research explores in turn how ‘drift’ into IPED supply occurs in the local market, how steroid powders are accessed online and imported for the purposes of local supply, the process by which these powders are ‘manufactured’ into injectable steroids locally, and finally the business and customer-oriented practices of the local market suppliers who distribute this finished product, and local market contexts.

This paper builds on and supports the existing literature in this area, and contributes to knowledge by helping demystify some of the market operations relating to this level of IPED supply, which will help to inform future policy regarding harms of IPEDs, and regulation.

Examining Coaches’ Experiences and Opinions of Anti-Doping Education

1 May 2019

Examining Coaches’ Experiences and Opinions of Anti-Doping Education / Laurie B. Patterson, Susan H. Backhouse, Sergio Lara-Bercial

  • International Sport Coaching Journal 6 (2019) 2 (May), p. 145-159
  • DOI: 10.1123/iscj.2018-0008


Although global policy states that coaches are a key stakeholder group for anti-doping education, very little is known about how performance and participation coaches develop their understanding of anti-doping policy and practice. Therefore, 292 UK-based coaches completed an online survey exploring their experiences of anti-doping education (i.e., topics covered, how and by whom the programmes were delivered and how knowledgeable and well-equipped coaches felt to deal with doping-related matters). The results showed that almost a quarter of the surveyed coaches reported never learning about anti-doping. Only a third had engaged with a formal anti-doping education programme and coaches typically received information on detection-deterrence related topics (e.g., banned substances, testing procedures). Many coaches perceived themselves as only having ‘a little’ knowledge about anti-doping and declared themselves as ‘a little’ equipped to work with their sportspeople on doping-related matters. Nonetheless, 96% of coaches were inclined to learn more about anti-doping in the future. Given the World Anti-Doping Code states that anti-doping education for coaches should be compulsory, it is crucial that insights from coaches are made public to inform the development of evidence-informed anti-doping programmes that are tailored and targeted.

Why are placebos not on WADA’s Prohibited List?

23 Apr 2020

Why are placebos not on WADA’s Prohibited List? / Bengt Kayser

  • Performance Enhancement & Health 8 (2020) 1 (June), 100163
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.peh.2020.100163


The placebo effect is a biological response to psychosocial environmental cues surrounding the use of inert or active substances or methods. Placebo effects can be exploited for performance enhancement purposes and their use is not forbidden in sport. WADA’s Code stipulates that at least two out of three criteria must be met to put something on the Prohibited List of substances and methods forbidden in sport. These criteria are: Medical or other scientific evidence, pharmacological effect or experience that the substance or method, alone or in combination with other substances or methods, has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance; Medical or other scientific evidence, pharmacological effect or experience that the use of the substance or method represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete; and WADA’s determination that the use of the substance or method violates the ‘spirit of sport’ described in the introduction to the Code. By looking at what is on the Prohibited List and by interpreting the discourse surrounding the ‘spirit of sport’ criterion I postulate that substances and methods with documented placebo effects on performance fully meet the inclusion criteria and should therefore be included on the Prohibited List. Such reductio ad absurdum further illustrates the limits of WADA’s three criteria framework for inclusion of methods and substances on the Prohibited List and reinforces the calls for a change in the way the Prohibited List is established and maintained.

A focused netnographic study exploring experiences associated with counterfeit and contaminated anabolic-androgenic steroids

12 Jun 2020

A focused netnographic study exploring experiences associated with counterfeit and contaminated anabolic-androgenic steroids / Evelyn Frude, Fiona H. McKay, Matthew Dunn

  • Harm Reduction Journal 17 (2020) 42 (12 June)
  • DOI: 10.1186/s12954-020-00387-y



A primary consequence of illicit drug markets and the absence of regulation is the variable quality or purity of the final product. Analysis of anabolic-androgenic steroid seizures shows that these products can contain adulterated products, product not included on the label, or product of unsatisfactory standard. While the potential negative effects of counterfeit anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) use is a recognised risk associated with use, no study has explored personal experiences associated with use. The aim of the present study was to use online discussion forums to investigate and explore the experiences associated with the purchase and consumption of counterfeit AAS among consumers.


An online search was conducted to identify online forums that discussed counterfeit or contaminated AAS; three were deemed suitable for the study. The primary source of data for this study was the ‘threads’ from these online forums, identified using search terms including ‘counterfeit’, ‘tampered’, and ‘fake’. Threads were thematically analysed for overall content, leading to the identification of themes.


Data from 134 threads (2743 posts from 875 unique avatars) was included. Two main themes were identified from the analysis: (1) experiences with counterfeit product and (2) harms and benefits associated with counterfeit product.


The use of counterfeit or contaminated substances represents a public health concern. Those who report using performance and image enhancing drugs such as AAS for non-medical purposes report consuming these substances and experiencing harm as a result. Consumers take steps to limit coming into contact with counterfeit or contaminated product, though recognise that many of these have limitations. The implementation of accessible drug safety checking services may provide an opportunity to provide consumers with information to assist them with making healthier choices.

‘I’d struggle to see it as cheating’: the policy and regulatory environments of study drug use at universities

23 Mar 2020

‘I’d struggle to see it as cheating’ : the policy and regulatory environments of study drug use at universities / Matthew Dunn, Phillip Dawson, Margaret Bearman, Joanna Taia

  • Higher Education Research & Development 40 (2021) 2 (23 March), p. 234-246
  • DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1738351


Students use various licit and illicit substances to enhance their academic performance. As yet, no study has explored whether this is an issue of concern for those working in the higher education sector. This study aimed to explore study drug policy, regulatory environments and responses within Australian universities. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 participants from five Australian universities. Nine participants were based in school/department, faculty, or institutional head of teaching and learning roles; six participants were in student support roles. Eight participants had direct teaching experience. Three themes emerged from the data analysis. Study drug use was seen as a health problem rather than a threat to academic integrity. Participants believed that attributes of the university setting may facilitate study drug use, but also considered that some attributes may prevent the uptake of use, such as a stronger emphasis on universities promoting the benefits of a balanced lifestyle.

DFSNZ Annual Report 2019-2020 (New Zealand)

20 Dec 2020

Annual report 2020 : for the year ended 30 June 2020 / Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ). - Auckland : DFSNZ, 2020

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