An experimental test of the efficacy of gain- and loss-framed messages for doping prevention in adolescent athletes


Doping is a prevalent issue, not only among Olympians and professional athletes; young athletes and those at the sub-elite level have reported doping as well. Doping programs have been developed to target adolescent athletes and prevent doping initiation. The efficacy of primary doping prevention initiatives may be enhanced with health communication strategies, such as message framing. To date, there have been very few studies examining message framing among adolescents and none in the context of doping prevention. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy of gain-framed and loss-framed messages on key psychological antecedents of doping among adolescent athletes. In a randomized controlled trial, 133 athletes aged 12 to 16 years old (Mage = 13.73; 53% boys) from a variety of sports viewed either a gain- or loss-framed video. Intentions, attitudes, self-efficacy, and perceived norms were all assessed immediately before and after the videos. Mixed between-within subjects ANOVAs revealed no differential influence for either message frame on changes in any of the outcomes. Attitudes, self-efficacy, and perceived norms all increased significantly over time for participants in both conditions. Overall, no strong evidence is provided to support definitive recommendations regarding optimal message framing for doping prevention; however, the findings suggest that regardless of message frame, a brief messaging intervention may still have a beneficial influence on psychological constructs related to doping.

Acknowledgments: This project was carried out with the support of the World Anti-Doping Agency