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The solution to doping in sport through removal, education and role models

In the last blogs we showed how doping in sport can be used without detection with the use of a placebo and this brought about the problem of ethics, if it is so easy to do what is there to stop us from doing it. The players have many influences and many if these influences drive toward winning no matter what and this may include taking drugs. Even with the known risks of drugs players still use them to get the edge they may need.

The possible solutions which were developed in the last blog include removing drugs from sport and using elite athletes as a role model for the junior players. Some other solutions may include could include education for all people involve, such as the coach, physician, athlete and parents if they apply.  This quote was used in the last blog “For athletes who want to compete clean, the threat that they may be beaten by a competitor who is not faster, stronger, or more dedicated, but who takes a drug to gain the edge, is profoundly personal” (Murray, 2009) The players that “compete clean” would be more inclined to help keep drugs out of sport and keep the sport as competitive as possible.  (Are AFL Footballers Positive Role Models, 2013)

With the solutions that available there are pros and cons of all. The first solution of removing drugs from sport has been tried before or at least the drugs that increase the performance the most have been banned. The positives with this method is that it detects some drugs cheats and removes them from the game. The negatives with this method is that as seen in the first blog, some may be able to get around the tests which are used. “WADA promotes global research to identify and detect doping substances and methods; exploring new models for enhanced detection; develops and maintains the annual List of Prohibited Substances and Methods; accredits anti-doping laboratories worldwide; monitors Therapeutic Use Exemptions granted by stakeholders.” (Priorities – World Anti-Doping Agency, 2013)

The second solution is to get the elite athletes to be a role model for other players looking to compete. One competition that has used this method already is the AFL that have recognised and that “young people can be influenced by the behaviour of high profile sports people. AFL players have volunteered to be at the forefront of the fight against the use of illicit drugs; their message is strong and clear: ‘say ‘no’ to drugs.’” (AFL, 2013) Even though the AFL is targeting illicit drugs, if they see it as something that can help the younger generation it could work for all drugs including performance enhancing. The positives is that it can get the message to the junior players and AFL players should be less likely to use drugs no matter what form. The negatives are that if not all the players are not on board and some set a bad example and the program may then be no use anymore.

The third solution of education is easy as it can be put into schools and stated from a young age. The negatives of this is that some people may not get this education or they may not listen and just want to win and it doesn’t matter how they do it.

            The priority of solutions would be to get as many people involved as possible in order to get the best results. The more people who are involved the easier it will be to implement. If players just wanted to compete for the love of the game and competition, it would be easy because the use of drugs would be minimal.

The removal of drugs from sport with banning certain drugs is a good solution as long as testing is conducted at random often intervals to catch those out who may be using a placebo or similar. Banning drugs make it less likely for someone to use in sport which is an amazing positive. (Stewart, 2008)

With more people and bans on drugs it could be a possibility that drugs in sport can be eliminated leaving only training and genetics to determine the winner of the game.

Education starting at a young age would be the optimal time and in order to get this to start, the education department, clubs and institutes would needed to be brought in and be responsible for their areas. WADA is another which could help in this with getting information out to those who need it.

The time in which it may take is a couple of years to get all that need to be involved, although some things may be able to be implemented straight away, similar to the AFL, if other sports could do the same this would show good examples in all sports and get the message out there. The message being that not only are drugs harmful but winning with the use of drugs doesn’t give the same satisfaction as winning without.

The benefits of getting drugs out of sport are vast and apply differently to everybody. The removal of drugs from sport will in general benefit the sport rather than the players as it will make it more competitive for all and the detriments to player’s health from drugs will also be minimised due to the decrease in use. Can this happen, even though it may take a few years there is still the possibility of drugs being completely removed from sport.


AFL. (2013, October 30). Say no to drugs. Retrieved from

Are AFL Footballers Positive Role Models. (2013, October 30). Retrieved from

Beckett, A. H. (1981). Use and abuse of drugs in sport. J. Biosoc. Sci.(Suppl.),7, 163-170.

Murray, T. (2009). Drugs, Sport, and Ethics. Exploring Bioethics. 1-7.

Priorities – World Anti-Doping Agency. (2013, October 30). Retrieved from World Anti Doping Agency:

Stewart, A. C. (2008). Drug policy in sport: hidden assumptions and inherent contradictions. Drug and Alcohol review, 123-129.

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Is Self-Efficacy a Mechanism of the Placebo Effect?

Separating the effects of self-efficacy and the placebo effect is often a difficult task for a coach or athlete to complete. Traditionally self-efficacy has five primary mechanisms under which it acts; past mastery experience, modeling through vicarious experience, goal setting, verbal persuasion and anxiety (Bandura, 1982). Studies into the placebo effect have shown it too uses a number of different mechanisms including; opioid antagonism, expectation, classical conditioning, enhancing voluntary response and neural firing, reducing anxiety, increasing self distraction techniques and increasing working memory and executive attention (Benedetti 2005, Meissner 2011, Petrovic & Ingvar 2002, Wager & Smith 2003). Is it also possible that self-efficacy is a mechanism of effect for placebos, or do they exist independently of one another? Expectancy causes self-efficacy when a placebo is mediated by expectancy (Stewart-Williams 2004) and as such there is a relationship between placebo and self efficacy. This relationship has not been thoroughly examined and further research into the potential of a dual process.

Placebos inherently involve some kind of deception (Beedie 2007). Whether it is through the use of inert substances (Benedetti 2005) or an intervention with no intrinsic remedial value (Kamper & Williams 2013). This deception lies at the core of something being a placebo, however it has been suggested that it is possible to successfully induce a placebo effect without this deception occurring (Meissner 2011). If this is truly the case then further psychological mechanisms such as self-efficacy may explain this effect. The use of an intervention in which a person believes they will gain an increase in performance can lead to an actual improvement of results (Beedie 2007). If this is viewed as an increase in self efficacy through the intrinsic belief the individual gains, then how can we know if the placebo effect or self efficacy are the cause? Looking at double dissociation and dual process learning, it may be possible to analyse whether both mechanisms acting together, or whether there is a component of each acting independently, or potentially if both are required for the other to work.

Double dissociation is the demonstration that two experimental manipulations each have different effects on two dependent variables; if one manipulation affects the first variable and not the second, the other manipulation affects the second variable and not the first (Teuber 1955). This usually refers to two cognitive faculties, that are believed to be linked in some way, where each can receive damage whilst the other remains intact and functioning. Double dissociations partition human behaviour into component effects (Van Orden 2001) suggesting that the two things exist independently of one another. Dual process learning is a model involving both implicit and explicit learning, whereby there is a two-level interaction occurring where each interacts in different ways (Sun 2002). Often dual process theories are vague and without specific alignment to the processes that are described (Evans & Stanovich 2013) however this opens up these theories to use outside of the specific psychological learning that they model.

Not all dual process theories are the same, and they do not necessarily relate to the same systems (Evans & Stanovich 2013). By using parts of dual process cognitive theories to develop a relatable model for self efficacy and the placebo effect it may be possible to analyse both mechanisms as occurring independently of one another but also with an impact on the reciprocal result. The placebo effect can occur with and without both expectancy and conditioning (Stewart-Williams 2004), and in a similar fashion self efficacy can be present but is not necessarily a requirement. Implicit and explicit psychobiological mechanisms are inextricably associated with the therapeutic encounter, and are important factors for mediating placebo responses (Meissner 2011), however determining the specific impact of self efficacy to the placebo effect it may be beneficial to analyse self efficacy and placebo as both double dissociative and dual processing. Merging these concepts together could produce an increased understanding to the specific mechanisms that occur when an individual gains a performance benefit from the use of a placebo.


Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37, 122-147

Beedie, C. J. (2007). Placebo effects in competitive sport: Qualitative data. J. Sports Sci & Med, 6, 21-28.

Benedetti, F., Mayberg, H.S., Wager, T.D., Stohler, C.S. & Zubieta, J.K. (2005) Neurobiological mechanisms of the placebo effect. The Journal of Neuroscience, 25(45):10390 –10402

Evans, J.B.T. & Stanovich, K.E. (2013) Dual-process theories of higher cognition: advancing the debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science 8(3) 223–241

Kamper, S.J. & Williams, C.M., (2013) The placebo effect: powerful, powerless or redundant. Br J Sports Med Vol 47 No 1, 6-9

Meissner, K., Kohls, N. & Colloca, L. (2011) Introduction to placebo effects in medicine: mechanisms and clinical implications Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B  366, 1783–1789

Petrovic, P. & Ingvar, M. (2002) Imaging cognitive modulation of pain processing. Pain 95:1–5.

Sun, R. (2002). Duality of the mind: A bottom-up approach toward cognition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sun, R. (2013). Dual-process theories and cognitive architectures. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, USA

Stewart-Williams, S. & Podd, J. (2004) The placebo effect: dissolving the expectancy versus conditioning debate Psychological Bulletin. 130(2), 324–340

Teuber, H. L. (1955). Physiological psychology. Annual Review of Psychology, 6, 267–296

Van Orden, G.V., Pennington, B.F. & Stone, G.O. (2001) What do double dissociations prove? Cognitive Science 25(1) 111-172

Wager, T.D. & Smith, E.E. (2003) Neuroimaging studies of working memory: a meta-analysis. Cognitive Affect of Behavioural Neuroscience 3:255–274.