Research Topic

Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drug (APED) Use in Recreational Sports: A Behavioural Science Perspective

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The use of performance and appearance enhancing drugs (APEDs) in recreational sports presents a growing public health challenge, and can cause irreversible health effects to the user and offset the physical and psychological benefits of exercise and sports participation. Recent studies have shown that the use ...

The use of performance and appearance enhancing drugs (APEDs) in recreational sports presents a growing public health challenge, and can cause irreversible health effects to the user and offset the physical and psychological benefits of exercise and sports participation. Recent studies have shown that the use of APEDs, like androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS), is evidenced in people as young as 12 years old, comes only second to psychotropic substance use in adolescence, and represents the main form of doping practice in youth recreational sports. The European Fitness Code of Conduct on Anti-Doping recognizes that doping practices in fitness and amateur sport settings can 1) threaten the health of individuals who engage in this practice; 2) be threatening to other people in the doping users’ immediate environment; 3) be harmful to the integrity and perception of the fitness sector, and 4) APEDs use is often linked with criminal networks for drug trafficking raising wider societal issues.

The psychological study of APEDs use in amateur and recreational sports can provide important information about the social, environmental and psychological correlates of this behaviour by utilizing different research methods (e.g., quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods) and designs (e.g., surveys, experiments, longitudinal studies). Accordingly, as a comprehensive theory of APEDs use is lacking, a behavioural science approach may provide the basis for theory development with respect to the risk factors that lead people of various ages to use APEDs, or the factors that protect against this behaviour. Finally, the psychological study of APEDs use may inform and establish respective preventive interventions and policies.

This Research Topic aims to bring together evidence from the behavioural sciences that will contribute to a better understanding of APEDs use in recreational sports by addressing the following questions:
• What are the psychological processes explaining APEDs use across the lifespan?
• What are the interrelationships between social/contextual influences and individual/ collective decision-making for or against APEDs use?
• Does APEDs share common psychological features with other substance use behaviours, such as self-regulation failure and high impulsivity, or is it a carefully planned goal-directed behaviour?
• Does APEDs use represent an end-goal in itself, or is it a means-to-an-end?
• Is there a "seasonality" effect in APEDs use and which age groups are more likely to engage in this behaviour?
• Is there a typology of APEDs use that can be explained by systematic differences in personality characteristics and self-regulatory processes?
• Can APEDs shape physical and mental representations of self and body image?
• How can behavioural science research on APEDs use inform preventive interventions and policies?

We welcome contributions that use a wide range of methodologies to address these questions, as well as conceptual and theoretical papers that are well founded on empirical evidence and clearly provide alternative and novel theoretical frameworks to better understand APEDs use from a behavioural science perspective. Empirical, theoretical, and positional papers that explain how the psychological study of APEDs use can inform respective anti-doping interventions and policies will be also considered.


Keywords: doping, performance enhancement, amateur sports, fitness, exercise


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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