Doping use among young elite cyclists: a qualitative psychosociological approach

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Apr;20(2):336-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00885.x. Epub 2009 Mar 29.


Using a psychosociological approach, the purpose of this study was to identify and understand the use of doping substances by young elite cyclists. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with young cyclists who were hoping to find a professional team and cyclists who had recently become professional. All of the young cyclists interviewed took nutritional supplements and believed that they improved their performance, which has been shown by other scholars to be a risk factor for doping. These cyclists believed that doping at the professional level in cycling was acceptable but did not approve of it at the amateur level. They were attracted to doping; they were open to using doping substances themselves if it was the key to continuing their cycling career, but only after they became professional. Team staff, doctors, parents and friends helped to create a "clean" environment that prevented the young cyclists from doping before becoming professional. The more experienced cyclists, who doped or used to dope, transmitted the culture of doping to the young cyclists, teaching them doping methods and which substances to use. This study could help to improve prevention and help to detect doping, as it is clear that doping behaviors begin at the amateur level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Bicycling / psychology*
  • Doping in Sports / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Organizational Culture
  • Professional Competence
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Environment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Young Adult