Does Money Corrupt Athletes? (1min read)

By Hy Crutchett aka Crotchsplay on Flickr
Image source: wrestlers in lycra By Hy Crutchett

I’m at the age when many of my peers have taken to wearing lycra. This is not for fashion, but to enter into triathlon, Iron Man and Tough Mudder competitions. A few have casually mentioned to me that it is quite common for people to take performance-enhancing drugs in amateur competitions. This inspired the below excerpt from my upcoming book:

“One needs to be careful, though, to understand the mechanism through which money is influencing human behvaiour. The link between life satisification and income is thought to be as much about social ranking than anything else. The higher you are in the income league table, the better you feel about your life, though not necessarily your day-to-day life. This can be seen in the prevalence of cheating in amateur sports.

In amateur triathlon competitions, it is estimated that one-in-seven athletes take illegal substances to improve performance[1]. This almost double the rate seen in elite athletes[2]. The substances used include steroids, human growth hormones and the cognitive-enhancing modafinil. And this despite on average training thirteen hours a week, which includes 190km bike rides, 42km runs and 6km swims. Interestingly, the  best predictor of whether an athlete would use illegal substances was whether they had used legal enhancers like creatine, protein supplements and highly caffeinated drinks.

This suggests that any signifiers of social ranking could be the bigger driver that could result in people cutting corners or breaking rules. Competition, public rankings and social status are the culprits, rather than money.

[1] Associations between Physical and Cognitive Doping – A Cross-Sectional Study in 2.997 Triathletes 2013

[2] Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jan 15;106(2-3):230-2. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.07.026. Epub 2009 Sep 8. Randomized response estimates for doping and illicit drug use in elite athletes.Striegel H1, Ulrich R, Simon P.”

Bilal

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