Monday, October 20, 2014: 1:00 PM

Reed Johnson, PhD, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Chapel Hill, NC and Juan Marcos Gonzalez, PhD, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, NC
Purpose: Drug diversion from legal, regulated uses to enhance athletes’ natural ability undermines the principles of fair play and is associated with serious health risks, as well as public embarrassment and loss of income and satisfaction from sport if detected.  This study quantifies athletes’ trade-off preferences and money-equivalent values  for outcomes associated with using illegal peformance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to inform design of effective deterrence mechanisms.

Method: A stated-preference survey instrument elicited contingent-behavior responses to constructed scenarios involving tradeoffs among doping-detection risks, performance levels, and financial and nonfinancial rewards. To evaluate potential stigma bias, we asked respondents both what they personally would do and a “Bayesian truth-serum” assessment of what they thought other athletes in their sport would do under the indicated circumstances.  We used interval regression to estimate relative importance of changes in performance and risks.  These parameters then were used to derive money equivalents of nonmonetary benefits, costs, and risks. We also elicited a utility-theoretic variant of the well-known Goldman Dilemma question on what risk of death athletes were willing to accept to win an Olympic gold medal with certainty. 

Result: The maximum acceptable level of health risk varied by sport and the level of competition. We found that athletes in all surveyed sports considered nonmonetary benefits and risks to be more important than financial rewards of competition. The money-equivalent values of nonfinancial benefits and costs varied by sport and level of competition. For example, the net nonfinancial benefits of doping was about $1 million for cyclists, about $0.5 million for swimmers, and about -$25,000 for ice-hockey players. 

Conclusion: This study indicates that the perceived value of benefits, health risks, and detection costs of drug diversion in sport varies strongly by sport and competition level. We also found that athletes in some sports value the nonmonetary benefits of successful use of PEDs much higher than the perceived nonmonetary costs and much higher than the financial benefits from winning. The results may suggest strategies for improving deterrence in anti-doping programs.