The more obsessed that college athletes are with their sport, the more likely they are to approve of using performance-enhancing drugs, a new Canadian study finds.
Two types of passion are associated with sports, the University of Waterloo researchers explained. “Harmonious passion” involves feelings of enjoyment, and the sport blends with the athlete’s life. “Obsessive passion” means not being able to disconnect from a sport and having feelings of guilt when not participating.
The researchers surveyed nearly 600 male and female varsity/all-star athletes at four universities in the province of Ontario.
“We found that regardless of gender, athletes who reported higher obsessive passion indicated more lenient attitudes towards [performance-enhancing drugs], while athletes who reported higher harmonious passion held more conservative attitudes towards them,” study author Wade Wilson, a lecturer on the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, said in a university news release.
“These results suggest that the closer an activity or sport is linked to our identity, there is an increased possibility we might do anything to maintain that identity,” he added.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, is the first to show how passion can affect varsity athletes’ views about performance-enhancing drugs, according to the researchers.
“Passion is often associated with positive words, such as love and dedication, but research suggests that it can control us as well,” Wilson said. “Awareness of the motivations and thought processes that may contribute to negative behavior is important, and has the potential to lead to effective interventions and informative workshops for athletes.”
The researchers hope their findings will help coaches and others better identify athletes at risk of using performance-enhancing drugs.
It’s also important for coaches to emphasize the enjoyment of sports and other positive aspects, and to avoid a winning-at-all-costs mentality, the study authors said.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has more about performance-enhancing drugs.