Stereotypes of athletes' use of performance enhancing products.

Author:Johnson, Carra
Position:Letter to the editor

Dear Editor-in-Chief

A recently published study surveyed cyclists about their use of and attitudes towards performance enhancing products (PEPs) (Kisaalita and Robinson, 2014). Over 60 percent of the cyclists claimed to have used non-banned PEPs while 8 percent claimed to have used banned PEPs. Out of four reasons why the cyclists would not use PEPs, risk to health was rated the most important. When asked to rank incentives for the use of PEPs, the cyclists found winning and maintaining competitiveness with other cyclists significantly more important than obtaining/retaining sponsorship. Ultimately, this study brings to light the stereotype that everything athletes use is for improvement in their sport.

While the responses from the sample that was surveyed provided insight on cyclist's beliefs about PEP use, the appropriate population was not targeted for this study considering the survey questions. The study was advertised via flyers that were posted throughout a college campus, at bike shops and at cycling races within one community. The only requirement was that the participants had to be 18 years or older, allowing a wide and hardly limited range of individuals to participate. These strategies and requirements are not ideal when trying to attract competitive cyclists; the individuals who would have been exposed to the advertisements would most likely be amateur cyclists who cycle leisurely. No information was provided about the last competitive race that these cyclists had participated in or the highest competitive level they had achieved, so referring to them as competitive cyclists may be farfetched.

The purpose of the study was to examine the attitudes and behaviors towards PEPs amongst a sample of competitive cyclists, and the survey questions were much more applicable to that population. Competitive and noncompetitive cyclists do not share the same motives or beliefs in regards to the sport (LaChausse, 2006). The survey asked participants to rate the importance of criteria believed to be significant when choosing whether to use PEPs; the three criteria were "getting caught by the Antidoping Agency (ADA)," "amount of performance improvement," "risk to health," and "violation of the spirit of the sport." They were also asked to rate the importance of factors in choosing a PEP; these factors included "winning," "obtaining/retaining sponsorship" and "maintaining competitiveness with other cyclists using PEPs." Being caught by the ADA, maintaining sponsorship and staying competitive against other cyclists using PEPs are concerns that the leisurely cyclist would not have. The risk to health was the highest rated reason to not use PEDs, which may not be an accurate representation of the opinions of competitive cyclists. Similarly, the factors that the subjects considered most important when choosing a PEP included winning and staying competitive. Based on the participation requirements, maintaining sponsorship would probably not...

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