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Personality traits and performance enhancing drugs : the dark triad and doping attitudes among competitive athletes

Nicholls, Adam R.; Madigan, Daniel J.; Backhouse, Susan H.; Levy, Andrew R.


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Professor Adam Nicholls
Professor of Psychology/ Leader of the Sport Psychology and Coaching Group

Daniel J. Madigan

Susan H. Backhouse

Andrew R. Levy


The use of performance enhancing drugs, also known as doping, can represent a serious threat to an athlete’s psychological and physical health and contravenes the spirit of sport. Scholars identified attitudes towards doping as a crucial factor that indirectly influences doping behaviors. Further, prominent theoretical frameworks that are designed to explain why athletes dope state that personality traits shape doping attitudes. To date, however, scholars are yet to examine the relationship between attitudes towards doping and personality traits such as the Dark Triad. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between the Dark Triad and doping attitudes amongst a sample of competitive athletes. Two hundred and eighty-five athletes completed a measure of the Dark Triad and attitudes towards doping. Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism all correlated positively with attitudes towards doping. Machiavellianism and psychopathy explained 29% of the variance in attitudes towards doping, whereas narcissism did not independently contribute to the variance in doping attitudes. These results reveal that athletes who score highly on the Dark Triad may be more likely to dope and therefore might need targeted anti-doping education and long-term monitoring to reduce their risk of taking banned substances.


Nicholls, A. R., Madigan, D. J., Backhouse, S. H., & Levy, A. R. (2017). Personality traits and performance enhancing drugs : the dark triad and doping attitudes among competitive athletes. Personality and individual differences, 112, 113-116.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 25, 2017
Online Publication Date Mar 18, 2017
Publication Date Jul 1, 2017
Deposit Date Mar 2, 2017
Publicly Available Date Mar 19, 2019
Journal Personality and individual differences
Print ISSN 0191-8869
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 112
Pages 113-116
Keywords Machiavellianism; Performance enhancing drugs; Psychopathy; Narcissism
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Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in Personality and individual differences, 2017. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record.


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