Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from SATPP and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Illegal performance enhancing drugs and doping in sport: a picture-based brief implicit association test for measuring athletes’ attitudes

Ralf Brand1*, Philipp Heck2 and Matthias Ziegler2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Sport and Exercise Psychology, University Potsdam, Am Neuen Palais 10, Potsdam 14469, Germany

2 Psychological Institute, Humboldt University of Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, Berlin 10099, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2014, 9:7  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-9-7

Published: 30 January 2014



Doping attitude is a key variable in predicting athletes’ intention to use forbidden performance enhancing drugs. Indirect reaction-time based attitude tests, such as the implicit association test, conceal the ultimate goal of measurement from the participant better than questionnaires. Indirect tests are especially useful when socially sensitive constructs such as attitudes towards doping need to be described. The present study serves the development and validation of a novel picture-based brief implicit association test (BIAT) for testing athletes’ attitudes towards doping in sport. It shall provide the basis for a transnationally compatible research instrument able to harmonize anti-doping research efforts.


Following a known-group differences validation strategy, the doping attitudes of 43 athletes from bodybuilding (representative for a highly doping prone sport) and handball (as a contrast group) were compared using the picture-based doping-BIAT. The Performance Enhancement Attitude Scale (PEAS) was employed as a corresponding direct measure in order to additionally validate the results.


As expected, in the group of bodybuilders, indirectly measured doping attitudes as tested with the picture-based doping-BIAT were significantly less negative (η2 = .11). The doping-BIAT and PEAS scores correlated significantly at r = .50 for bodybuilders, and not significantly at r = .36 for handball players. There was a low error rate (7%) and a satisfactory internal consistency (rtt = .66) for the picture-based doping-BIAT.


The picture-based doping-BIAT constitutes a psychometrically tested method, ready to be adopted by the international research community. The test can be administered via the internet. All test material is available “open source”. The test might be implemented, for example, as a new effect-measure in the evaluation of prevention programs.

Doping attitude; Bodybuilding; Indirect test; Implicit attitude test (IAT); Methodology