Research Topic

Nutritional Supplements: Gateway to Doping or Safe Alternative?

About this Research Topic

Background: Doping use is among the major challenges of modern competitive and recreational sports. Among the different factors that are associated with intentional and unintentional/inadvertent doping use, the use of nutritional supplements stands out. Systematic review and meta-analysis papers have indicated that using nutritional supplements significantly increases the likelihood for self-reported doping use, and other studies have shown that athletes who use nutritional supplements tend to view doping use more favourably as compared to athletes who do not use supplements. Stemming from the literature on the gateway hypothesis in illicit drug use, some scholars have argued that nutritional supplements represent a gateway that bolsters a mentality of chemically-assisted performance enhancement and facilitates the transition to doping use.

However, research advocating the gateway function of nutritional supplements is largely based on cross-sectional data, and on the observed co-occurrence of self-reported nutritional supplement and doping use, thus, making it hard to establish causality. Additionally, another line of research has advocated that nutritional supplements and doping use co-occur, that is doping users use also nutritional supplements to maintain the effects of doping use after the doping cycles or simply support their training in periods they are not using doping substances. According to this approach, nutritional supplements can serve as safe alternatives for athletes who do not endorse a performance enhancement mentality in favour of doping use.

Goal: To provide the context for the presentation of novel empirical evidence, systematic review and meta-analysis papers, as well as theories and critical position papers about the dubious role of nutritional supplements in the use of doping substances in competitive sport and recreational exercise settings.

Scope: Our Research Topic aims to stimulate further research on the association between nutritional supplements and doping use and to present both sides of the argument about the gateway hypothesis. The evidence presented in our Research Topic is expected to make a significant contribution to the extant literature and to also inform policy initiatives and preventive efforts to tackle doping use in competitive and recreational sports.

Details for authors:
The Research Topic welcomes articles using:

a) Empirical research that particularly uses longitudinal or experimental designs to determine the effects of nutritional supplement use on doping use

b) Cross-sectional studies that make a significant contribution to the extant research on the nutritional supplements-doping use relationship and address social, psychological and/or biological processes that explain the association between nutritional supplement and doping use in different sport and athletic populations.

c) Empirical research that studies the co-occurrence of nutritional supplement and doping use in the context of polypharmacy/polydrug use.

d) Theoretical and position papers aiming to provide a novel account of the association between nutritional supplement and doping use.

e) Systematic reviews and meta-analysis papers examining the association between nutritional supplement and doping use, after controlling for the effects of other social and psychological risk factors for doping use.


Keywords: Doping, Prohibited Substances, Nutritional Supplements, Gateway Hypothesis, Safe Alternative


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.

Background: Doping use is among the major challenges of modern competitive and recreational sports. Among the different factors that are associated with intentional and unintentional/inadvertent doping use, the use of nutritional supplements stands out. Systematic review and meta-analysis papers have indicated that using nutritional supplements significantly increases the likelihood for self-reported doping use, and other studies have shown that athletes who use nutritional supplements tend to view doping use more favourably as compared to athletes who do not use supplements. Stemming from the literature on the gateway hypothesis in illicit drug use, some scholars have argued that nutritional supplements represent a gateway that bolsters a mentality of chemically-assisted performance enhancement and facilitates the transition to doping use.

However, research advocating the gateway function of nutritional supplements is largely based on cross-sectional data, and on the observed co-occurrence of self-reported nutritional supplement and doping use, thus, making it hard to establish causality. Additionally, another line of research has advocated that nutritional supplements and doping use co-occur, that is doping users use also nutritional supplements to maintain the effects of doping use after the doping cycles or simply support their training in periods they are not using doping substances. According to this approach, nutritional supplements can serve as safe alternatives for athletes who do not endorse a performance enhancement mentality in favour of doping use.

Goal: To provide the context for the presentation of novel empirical evidence, systematic review and meta-analysis papers, as well as theories and critical position papers about the dubious role of nutritional supplements in the use of doping substances in competitive sport and recreational exercise settings.

Scope: Our Research Topic aims to stimulate further research on the association between nutritional supplements and doping use and to present both sides of the argument about the gateway hypothesis. The evidence presented in our Research Topic is expected to make a significant contribution to the extant literature and to also inform policy initiatives and preventive efforts to tackle doping use in competitive and recreational sports.

Details for authors:
The Research Topic welcomes articles using:

a) Empirical research that particularly uses longitudinal or experimental designs to determine the effects of nutritional supplement use on doping use

b) Cross-sectional studies that make a significant contribution to the extant research on the nutritional supplements-doping use relationship and address social, psychological and/or biological processes that explain the association between nutritional supplement and doping use in different sport and athletic populations.

c) Empirical research that studies the co-occurrence of nutritional supplement and doping use in the context of polypharmacy/polydrug use.

d) Theoretical and position papers aiming to provide a novel account of the association between nutritional supplement and doping use.

e) Systematic reviews and meta-analysis papers examining the association between nutritional supplement and doping use, after controlling for the effects of other social and psychological risk factors for doping use.


Keywords: Doping, Prohibited Substances, Nutritional Supplements, Gateway Hypothesis, Safe Alternative


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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Submission Deadlines

15 December 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 December 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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