They are all doped, eh? The influence of doping prevalence on the rating of an athlete's trustworthiness and reputation


Athletes in sports with a high doping prevalence tend to think that many of their competitors take doping substances (Uvacsek et al., 2011). In case of a doping suspicion, athletes apply crisis communication, explainable with the situational crisis communication theory (Coombs, 2007), to restore their reputation and trustworthiness. The following study aims to investigate the influence of doping prevalence on the effect of crisis communication of a doping-suspicious athlete. We conducted an online experiment (between-subject design) using a case vignette of a fictitious doping case either from cross-country skiing (high), bobsleigh (medium) or luge (low doping prevalence) to evaluate the impact of a justification strategy. Trust was measured via a validated scale based on Mayer and Davis (1999), reputation via a theoretically derived own scale (five-point Likert-scale). The survey started with a guess, how high the doping prevalence in the respective type of sports was estimated. Altogether 95 people participated (50.5% male, 59.5% female). Their mean age was 24.25 years (SD=6.44). A univariate ANOVA of the perceived trustworthiness identified no differences for the whole sample (F(2, 92)=1.188, p=.310), but a difference within the subsample of those participants who guessed the prevalence correctly (n=40, F(2, 37)=3.242, p=.050, =.149). Participants of the cross-county condition (M=3.28, SD=0.59) perceived the athlete as less trustworthy than participants of the luge-condition (M=3.75, SD=0.34, p=.049). The evaluation of the athlete’s reputation showed no differences (F(2, 92)=0.741, p=.479). The doping prevalence showed only an effect on trustworthiness within the subsample of those who guessed correctly. In general the defense of a doping-suspicious athlete is evaluated comparably concerning the reputation and trustworthiness, independent of the doping prevalence of the type of sports the athletes comes from. However, people with background knowledge might be a more important target group for athletes, if we consider knowledge as an indicator for interest.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded and supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Research Training Group 1712/1 "Trust and Communication in a Digitized World".