The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) spends considerable money funding research aimed at catching athletes who use prohibited performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). WADA has always been on the losing end of an ongoing cat-and-mouse game. Anti-doping agencies are faced with several emerging doping methods such as synthetic blood doping, gene doping and designer steroids created via dynamic combinatorial chemistry (DCC).
A recently published study in the steroids users and users of other banned substances. The WADA-funded researchers hope to establish a reliable indicator of self-reported use of performance-enhancing drugs.suggests that to catch
The proposed anti-doping tool would ask the athlete various questions about their own self-reported doping, hypothetical doping scenarios, and the doping behavior of other athletes. If the athlete’s responses to the questionnaire fit the psychological profile of a doper, then this might represent evidence that athlete is doping even if the athlete does not admit to doping! The research is based on the False Consensus Effect from social psychology research.
[The False Consensus Effect is] the considerable overestimation of behaviour in which a person engages, and a slight underestimation of behaviour absent from a person’s repertoire. That is, over-estimating a particular behaviour indicates that the person who makes the estimate (and overestimates the behaviour) is likely to be engage in the same act.
The ‘False Consensus Effect’ (FCE), by which people perceive their own actions as relatively common behaviour, might be exploited to gauge whether a person engages in controversial behaviour, such as performance enhancing drug (PED) use. Hypothesis: It is assumed that people’s own behaviour, owing to the FCE, affects their estimation of the prevalence of that behaviour. It is further hypothesised that a person’s estimate of PED population use is a reliable indicator of the doping behaviour of that person, in lieu of self-reports.
An athlete that thinks most of his competitors are cheating must be cheating as well. This must be what WADA would call evidence of a non-analytical positive.
The researchers repeatedly emphasize that the measurement tool is not intended to catch dopers.
The measurement tool is to be used as a research tool to gather information on prevalence of PED use but it is not intended to be a diagnostic tool for individual assessment.
The importance of the method lies in its usefulness in epidemiological studies, not in individual assessments
But elsewhere in the article, researchers state that the measurement tool can explicitly be used to gain information about the individual assessed.
We propose to use estimates to gain information about the individual who makes the estimates and not the population for which the estimates are made.
The measurement tool is not envisaged to be used to gather data on projected use, but rather, employed as an implicit self-report method. A model will be developed to give an estimation of ‘own’ use based on the projected use.
Will WADA use the “false consensus” research as the “elegant integration of biochemistry, social psychology and statistics” in order to:
(1) Obtain reliable estimates of doping behaviour; or
(2) Obtain corroborating evidence that individual athletes are doping?