Factors Influencing Supplement Use and Doping Among Adolescent Athletes in New Zealand
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Doping has long been associated with elite level sport, among athletes who seek to dishonestly enhance performance and defeat their opponents. Owing to the predominant rationale behind doping, and the nuanced performance climate which underpins youth sport, it is unsurprising that these behaviours have infiltrated adolescent sport (Backhouse et al., 2015). Doping is considered a maladaptive behaviour which threatens the integrity of sport and poses deleterious consequences to adolescent athletes (Blank et al., 2016; Elbe & Brand, 2016). The acknowledged complexities of this behaviour are suggested to differ by context and population (Degenhardt et al., 2010). However, there is much which remains unknown about factors which influence the occurrence, and prevention, of doping during the developmental period of adolescence. Focused on the prevention of doping among adolescent athletes, a pragmatic philosophical position underpinned this thesis. Through the voices of adolescent athletes, athlete support personnel and stakeholders, this thesis sought to identify factors which influence supplement use and doping among adolescent athletes (SUDAA) in New Zealand (NZ). In pursuit of practical insights, this thesis adopted an explanatory, sequential mixed methods research design and conducted three studies. Study one sought adolescent perspectives regarding factors which influence SUDAA through a nationwide survey. A large cohort of adolescents (aged 13 to 18 years) revealed widespread supplement use (92%), moderate doping consideration (42%), limited doping intent (3.8%) and doping (2.5%). Further regression analysis identified factors which increased the odds of SUDAA, doping intentions and consideration. These influential factors included subjective norms, descriptive norms, ego-oriented motivational climate and sport confidence sourced through self-presentation. Conversely, volition and sport confidence sourced through mastery were associated with decreased odds of doping, doping consideration and doping intentions among adolescent athletes. Study two sought the perspectives of current and recent adolescent athletes, and athlete support personnel, regarding factors which influence SUDAA. These multiple perspectives revealed three major themes to influence SUDAA including performance climate, identity and authority. Methodological triangulation then integrated evidence from studies one and two, within which convergent, complementary and silent evidence were identified. Inferences from the integrated data revealed orientations, autonomy, norms, body image and behaviour as major themes which influence SUDAA. These inferences informed the design of study three which sought stakeholder perspectives on outcome-oriented solutions to reduce SUDAA. Six stakeholders with experiential knowledge in adolescent sport identified focus areas, influential audiences and effective approaches they perceived pivotal to effectively reduce SUDAA. Inferences made through the integration of evidence from all phases of research informed a socio-ecological perspective to observe interactions between factors and audiences which influence SUDAA at intrapersonal, interpersonal and cultural levels of adolescent sport. From this perspective, it was revealed that performance priorities, performance enhancing behaviours, normative influence and athletic body image increased SUDAA, while volition and a mastery focus reduced these behaviours. The evidence shows that athlete-centered approaches alone are unlikely to reduce SUDAA in the absence of other changes in adolescent sporting environments. This thesis concluded with the provision of practical recommendations which inform a whole of sport approach to reduce SUDAA.