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Banned Substances in Sport: Public Perception of Performance-Enhancing Drugs and Marijuana Use by Athletes



In a 2020 poll of U.S. residents’ public perspectives designed and analyzed by the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University, we asked questions about banned substances, including performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and marijuana use in sports. Drug use among athletes has been a widely-discussed topic among sport enthusiasts, researchers, healthcare providers, and government agencies. When a beloved athlete is caught using PEDs, or “doping,” it makes headlines, spurs discussion on social media, and generates policy from sport governing bodies.

The topic spans different sports, includes a wide range of ages and playing levels, and supersedes race and country. American baseball players, such as Alex Rodriguez, have attracted national attention and governmental investigation. Internationally, we have witnessed systemic doping by countries, as in the case of East Germany’s Olympic teams in the 1970s and ’80s and Russia’s Olympic teams in the past decade. Cyclist Lance Armstrong dominated the Tour de France for seven years before being caught in a doping conspiracy. Before cannabis was banned for Olympic athletes, in the late 1990s, Ross Rebagliati won a gold medal for snowboarding, lost it after testing positive for marijuana, and then regained it because the drug wasn’t yet on the banned substances list.

In addition to substantial news and social media coverage, researchers have investigated health-related consequences of doping (e.g., Chyka, 2003; Ostovar et al., 2017), issues that drive athletes to take banned substances (e.g., Nicholls et al., 2017), and people’s perceptions of banned substances use (e.g., Landy et al., 2017). We have seen the media reports and read the scientific evidence, but we wanted your perspectives. So, we asked.

Download the full research note here.