Incongruence in Doping Related Attitudes, Beliefs and Opinions in the Context of Discordant Behavioural Data: In Which Measure Do We Trust? / Andrea Petroczi, Martina Uvacsek, Tamas Nepusz, Nawed Deshmukh, Iltaf Shah, Eugene V. Aidman, James Barker, Miklos Toth, Declan P. Naughton (2011)
PLoS ONE 6(4): e18804. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018804
Social psychology research on doping and outcome based evaluation of primary anti-doping prevention and intervention programmes have been dominated by self-reports. Having confidence in the validity and reliability of such data is vital.
The sample of 82 athletes from 30 sports (52.4% female, mean age: 21.48±2.86 years) was split into quasi-experimental groups based on i) self-admitted previous experience with prohibited performance enhancing drugs (PED) and ii) the presence of at least one prohibited PED in hair covering up to 6 months prior to data collection. Participants responded to questionnaires assessing a range of social cognitive determinants of doping via self-reports; and completed a modified version of the Brief Implicit Association Test (BIAT) assessing implicit attitudes to doping relative to the acceptable nutritional supplements (NS). Social projection regarding NS was used as control.
PEDs were detected in hair samples from 10 athletes (12% prevalence), none of whom admitted doping use. This group of ‘deniers’ was characterised by a dissociation between explicit (verbal declarations) and implicit (BIAT) responding, while convergence was observed in the ‘clean’ athlete group. This dissociation, if replicated, may act as a cognitive marker of the denier group, with promising applications of the combined explicit-implicit cognitive protocol as a proxy in lieu of biochemical detection methods in social science research. Overall, discrepancies in the relationship between declared doping-related opinion and implicit doping attitudes were observed between the groups, with control measures remaining unaffected. Questionnaire responses showed a pattern consistent with self-reported doping use.
Following our preliminary work, this study provides further evidence that both self-reports on behaviour and social cognitive measures could be affected by some form of response bias. This can question the validity of self-reports, with reliability remaining unaffected. Triangulation of various assessment methods is recommended.