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How Do The Influences Of Doping And Blood Doping Affect Athletes?

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The term doping refers to the administration of drugs into a person’s bloodstream, this is mainly done to enhance the performance of any type. Anti-doping agencies, such as WADA, have been enforced to regulate and prevent drugs from being a common factor in sporting events. The drugs are being used to enable better performance, therefore, heightening an athlete’s ability to execute a sporting task/skill for longer at a better rate. This consequently leads to that specific athlete having an unfair advantage and tainting the overall result of the event. The main topic of this document is to target the aspects of doping and the effect that it has on athletes regarding their beliefs, knowledge, and views.

Why Do Athletes Dope and What are Elite Athlete’s Beliefs on the Topic?

Doping in sport has become a huge topic of discussion due to the fact that it imposed and invalidates various methods of performance, this can be from a range of different sports. The main research into this article was carried out through a series of systematic literature reviews that followed a specific set of criteria. The articles found were ultimately whittled down from 99 to 33 relevant studies using a format of keywords. Morente-Sánchez and Zabala (2013), state that the more athletes who are aware of other athletes abusing drugs within a sporting context are more likely going to use performance-enhancing drugs (PED) for themselves. As a result, this creates a false consensus effect where athletes will start to question their own beliefs, opinions, and preferences. Therefore, it is clear to see that there is a significant psychological effect linked to the usage of drugs in a sporting situation. Within the same article, the author references a series of statics composed by Streigel et al. (2002) which highlights a study containing 101 participants. The article specified that the most frequent use for PED is used to achieve athletic success (86%) and financial gain (74%). Similarly, other factors of the same testing method found that athletes also dope in order to increase their self-confidence (30%) and for social recreation aspects (24%). In this investigation, there are no clear defining details in this document regarding the age range of the participants. Most of the articles used in the document consisted of a questionnaire type basis which requires athletes to give their own personal advice. There are multiple concerns with a topic this controversial as the participants may not have been wholly accurate. As a result, this can influence the overall findings of the topic review. Another aspect of this review is that it does not take into account the geographical and cultural differences. This aspect is important as different people will have different opinions Throughout the entirety of the document, the authors convey the fact that doping through PED poses a negative impact both to an athlete’s mental and physical health.

Historical Background

In terms of the historical perspective with doping in sport, Mottram (2010) states that there was an attempt to control the mishaps of drug use around 1950. However, due to the ignorance and lack of sophistication of testing procedures, there was a small amount that could be done to prevent it. As technology progressed, there was a surge in the use of drugs due to an increase in the pharmaceutical industry in 1960. This then led to the introduction of drug testing in the world championships in 1966. Similar to the previous review, Mottram believed that doping was bad as it could be related to an increased number of deaths. However, no specific data is stating that it was the drugs that had a direct influence on the athletes. The data used in this article has only been derived from key major sporting events. As a result, it does not pose a true reading of lower-level sport and is not fully accurate in displaying the vast history concerning doping. Additionally, Mottram states that the research carried out pointed to the fact that blood doping was the first prohibited doping technique to be added to the IOC prohibited list, this was due to high doses of athletes using this method. But the IOC had no genuine way of testing and as a result, there was an influx in blood doping numbers. Most articles are from a historic background and therefore provides us with the knowledge of drugs in the past. More so how they have become to increase and have such a dominant part in modern day society.

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Blood Doping and the Health Issues Surrounding Blood Doping

Similar to one of the previous reviews, when referring to an athlete’s physical health, (Towns and Gerrard, 2014) cite that athletes would be naïve to partake in sports under the influence of drugs as there are multiple factors to influence health. More specifically the concept of blood doping involves the boosting of the number of red blood cells that is currently in an athlete’s bloodstream. These cells are responsible for carrying oxygenated blood around the system to specific working muscles. An increase in red blood cells means that there will be an increased amount of oxygen (O2) in the bloodstream. Therefore, during sporting events, athletes will most likely be able to perform at higher intensities for longer amounts of time with increased resistance to fatigue. Within ‘A Fool’s Game: Blood Doping in Sport’, the authors make a point in highlighting the health risks surrounding blood doping. Towns and Gerrard (2014) emphasise health risks of immune reactions, bacterial contamination and inadvertent transmission of viral diseases. The most common factor of that being HIV. The article is composed of data that is correlated and discovered from a range of other author’s articles. Cited within the article (Darby et al. 1995) points out that prior to testing during 1979-1989, 1227 patients with haemophilia were infected with HIV-1, this is of a significant tenfold increase in deaths compared to the usual population with haemophilia. On the other hand, not everybody agrees that doping creates significant health risks. ‘We should assess each substance on an individual basis. We should set enforceable, fair, and safe physiological limits’ (Savulescu, 2013, p1). The use of adding in a contrasting article allows the document to analyse both arguments and gives the reader an opportunity to understand both points made. However, throughout this document, the validity of the findings can be questioned due to the response in methods of data. In summary, the majority of findings from this data all seem to support the fact that there are predominant health issues in doping, specifically blood doping.

Numbers and Statistics

The ’Prevalence of Doping Use in Elite Sports’ provides readers with a combination of questionnaires using the Randomised Response Technique (RRT) and models of biological parameters which provide statistical analysis and possibilities. Additionally, it also involves an array of scientific articles dating back to 1997. This article is unique compared to others as it adopts more than one research technique to back up its original theory. According to de Hon et al. (2014), the laws and measures surrounding anti-doping have a direct impact on their lives due to the fact that it poses a major moral burden on them. Throughout this investigation, there were a few limitations to the outcome of the result. For example, there is an increasing amount of prohibited substances but there is no genuine way of testing as the ratio between analytical results and the doping itself is rather narrow. Furthermore, the laboratory-based chemical analysis only has a short detection window for the drug to be found within a system, this is even shorter if the dosage is weaker. In terms of the numbers, WADA (2014) compiled a list of past doping statistics ranging from 1987-2013 approximately 37,882 doping tests were performed and 854 of the results came back as positive, giving a 2.25% finding. In comparison to this in 2013, there were 269,878 tests performed and only 5,962 came back positive, equalling a 2.21% statistic. Therefore, this gives the reader the impression that the rate of elite athletes abusing PED has slightly decreased. This could be due to awareness of the consequences or due to their own moral beliefs. On the other hand, this data is six years out of date, so it does not provide a definitive answer as there is a limit to the statistical data which provides uncertainty. The questionnaires followed a form of RRT which was performed in Germany by 448 Olympic level athletes, “When asked if they had ever used illegal doping methods, an estimate of between 26.7% and 58.0% of athletes answered”, (Pitsch, Emrich and Klein, 2007, pp.95-96). Similar to ‘Doping in Sport: A review of Elite Athlete’s Attitudes, Belief and Knowledge’ and ‘A Fool’s Game: Blood Doping in Sport’ this review uses the research method of questionnaires, this method is not always accurate.

In relation to the sanctions surrounding doping in sport, Mandaric and Delibasic, (2014) suggest that due to the increase in pressures surrounding the physical and psychological pressures, athletes will ultimately have an increased desire to win. This relates to the suggestion that athletes are more likely going to commit to cheating if there is an added pressure. The document states that the most common forms of consequences from cheating via doping are the forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes, disqualification of results, ineligibility for presence imposed for the use of a prohibited substance and sometimes a lifetime ban from competition. Mandatory testing for illegal PED during sporting events is now present in all major sporting events. This is to counteract the increase in drugs and prevent unfair competition.

In conclusion, there is a general consensus that the methods of doping within a sporting situation is bad. This can be due to the effects that it has on an athlete's health. There is a significant amount of data that warns readers of the influences and impacts that doping can have. Specifically, through the use of blood doping as this method of cheating is through the transmission of bodily fluids. Additionally, it was also clear to see that the majority of athletes were against the whole concept of doping due to their own beliefs and morals. This relates to the fact that doping is a frowned upon form of cheating that gives the player an advantage over regular players. The majority of the articles used in this literature review consisted of articles from the past couple of decades. This is due to the fact that the issues concerning doping have been relatively recent. The advancements in technology have enabled a surge in new PED that athletes can use in order to become more advanced in their skill set.


  1. Darby, S., Ewart, D., Giangrande, P., Dolin, P., Spooner, R. and Rizza, C. (1995). Mortality before and after HIV infection in the complete UK population of haemophiliacs. Nature, 377(6544), pp.79-82.
  2. Mandaric, S. and Delibasic, V. (2014). Sanctions for doping in sport. Fizicka Kultura, 68(1), pp.39-49.
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  7. Sottas, P., Robinson, N., Fischetto, G., Dolle, G., Alonso, J. and Saugy, M. (2011). Prevalence of Blood Doping in Samples Collected from Elite Track and Field Athletes. Clinical Chemistry, 57(5), pp.762-769.
  8. Striegel H, Vollkommer G, Dickhuth HH. 2002 Combating drug use in competitive sports: an analysis from the athletes’ perspective. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2002. 42(3):354–9.
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  10. Towns, C. and Gerrard, D. (2014). A fool's game: Blood doping in sport. Performance Enhancement & Health, 3(1), pp.54-58.
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