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Qualitative Analysis of the Factors Associated with Whistleblowing Intentions among Athletes from Six European Countries

Toner, John; Jones, Luke; Fairs, Lucas; Mantis, Constantine; Barkoukis, Vassilis; Daroglou, Garyfallia; Perry, John L.; Micle, Andrei V.; Theodorou, Nikolaos C.; Shakhverdieva, Sabina; Stoicescu, Marius; Pompiliu-Nicolae, Constantin; Vesic, Milica V.; Dikic, Nenad; Andjelkovic, Marija; Muñoz-Guerra Revilla, Jesús; García-Grimau, Elena; Martínez, Miguel A.E.; Amigo, Javier A.; Schomöller, Anne; Nicholls, Adam Robert


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Dr John Toner
Lecturer in Sports Coaching and Performance

Luke Jones

Lucas Fairs

Constantine Mantis

Vassilis Barkoukis

Garyfallia Daroglou

John L. Perry

Andrei V. Micle

Nikolaos C. Theodorou

Sabina Shakhverdieva

Marius Stoicescu

Constantin Pompiliu-Nicolae

Milica V. Vesic

Nenad Dikic

Marija Andjelkovic

Jesús Muñoz-Guerra Revilla

Elena García-Grimau

Miguel A.E. Martínez

Javier A. Amigo

Anne Schomöller

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


Although whistleblowing is thought to represent an effective mechanism for detecting and uncovering doping in sport, it has yet to become a widely adopted practice. Understanding the factors that encourage or discourage whistleblowing is of vital importance for the promotion of this practice and the development of pedagogical material to enhance the likelihood of whistleblowing. The current study employed a qualitative methodology to explore the personal and organisational factors that underpin intentions to blow the whistle or that may lead to engagement in whistleblowing behaviours in sport. Thirty-three competitive athletes across a range of sports took part in a semi-structured interview which sought to explore what they would do should they encounter a doping scenario. Content analysis revealed that whistleblowing is a dynamic process characterised by the interaction of a range of personal and organisational factors in determining the intention to report PED use. These factors included moral reasoning, a desire to keep the matter "in-house", perceived personal costs, institutional attitudes to doping, and social support. Analysis revealed a number of 'intervening events' (Ajzen, 1991), including a perceived lack of organisational protection (e.g., ethical leadership) within some sporting sub-cultures, which present an important obstacle to whistleblowing. The intention to report doping was underpinned by a "fairness loyalty trade-off" which involved athletes choosing to adhere to either fairness norms (which relate to a sense that all people and groups are treated equally) or loyalty norms (which reflect preferential treatment towards an in-group) when deciding whether they would blow the whistle. The promotion of fairness norms that emphasise a group's collective interests might encourage athletes to view whistleblowing as a means of increasing group cohesiveness and effectiveness and thereby increase the likelihood of this practice.


Toner, J., Jones, L., Fairs, L., Mantis, C., Barkoukis, V., Daroglou, G., …Nicholls, A. R. (2024). Qualitative Analysis of the Factors Associated with Whistleblowing Intentions among Athletes from Six European Countries. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 6, Article 1335258.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 20, 2024
Online Publication Date May 7, 2024
Publication Date May 7, 2024
Deposit Date Mar 20, 2024
Publicly Available Date May 8, 2024
Journal Frontiers in Sports and Active Living
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Article Number 1335258
Keywords Doping; Intervening events; Fairness norms; Loyalty norms; Whistleblower
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Copyright Statement
© 2024 Toner, Jones, Fairs, Mantis, Barkoukis, Daroglou, Perry, Micle, Theodorou, Shakhverdieva, Stoicescu, Pompiliu-Nicolae, Vesic, Dikic, Andjelkovic, Revilla, García-Grimau, Martínez, Amigo, Schomöller and Nicholls. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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