As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hyponotherapist, Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve had the privelege of working with countless elite athletes over the years. Most of the athletes that I’ve worked with have relied on their natural born talents, work ethic, grit, perserverance, courage, self-belief, and mental and emotional toughness to compete at the highest levels of their chosen sport. Some other athletes that I’ve worked with, however, have confided in me that they use Performance Enhancing Drugs to secure an edge over their oppostion. They’ve told me that they use Performance Enhancing Drugs to make them stronger, quicker, and more self-confident. Moreover, they’ve told me that PED’s drmatically speed up their revovery time after grueling workouts, games, matches, etc.
When an athlete tells me that they use PED’s to enhance their sports performance, I refrain from sitting in judgment of them. After all, how an athlete chooses to go about the business of performing in their chosen sport is his or her preogative. I choose to focus my attention instead on how to help them consitently get into an ideal performance state when they’re competing, how to srenghten their self-confidence and self-belief, how to partner with the part of them that feels self-doubt and/or fear, etc. Never the less, I’ve learned through my studies and through working with these particular athletes about the thought processes they use and the Social Psychology principles that they succumb to that compel them to use Performance Enhancing Drugs in the first place.
I’ve innumerated below the different kinds of thought processes that athletes go through to justify their use of PED’s:
1) Minimization: “It doesn’t help me that much; it just helps me recover faster so I can get back to training hard and using my God Given talents.”
2). Outcome-oriented Thinking: “The ends justify the means. I’d rather be an elite professional athlete with a hundred million dollars in my bank account at the end of my career than a mid-tier professional athlete who makes comparably modest amounts of money.” Another example of outcome thinking used by athletes is “winning isn’t the only thing, it’s everything.” With this in mind, an athlete will do whatever he’s got to do to win at all costs.
3). Rationalizing: “Everyone else is doing it, and so it’s only fair that I compete on an even playing field.” While it may be true that a lot of elite athletes use steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to get an unfair advantate over their peers, it still undermines the credibility of all sports when an athlete embraces the belief, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
4) Normalizing: “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” “Plus, performance enhancing drugs have always been and will always be a part of the culture in professional sports.”
5). Playing the hero: “I’m doing this to put food on my family’s plate and to give my children opportunities that I never had growing up. I may be cheating, but I’m doing so with a nobler, higher purpose in mind.”
6) Playing the Martyr: “My coaches, teammates, and fans don’t truly care about me. My coaches want to get paid for winning, and the fans care more about being entertained than watching players play clean. If I’m just their entertainment, than screw it; I’ll give the fans what they want and laugh my way to the bank.”
7). Prioritizing ones reputation over ones character: Some athletes that use PESD’s are heavily invested in how others perceive them. They want to be put on a pedestal by their fans and be seen as larger than life to feed their egoic need for attention and adulation. In turn, they table their conscience, forsake their values, and subordinate their character and guiding principles in pursuit of a reputation and lasting legacy.
8) Social Proof: Social Proof is a Social Psychology principle that says that when people feel uncertain about something, or when they see others that are similar to them engaging in a certain behavior, they’re more inclined to follow along and do what they see others doing. Even if an athlete knows that taking performance enhancing drugs may imperil their health down the line or put them in jeapordy of getting caught by PED regulating bodies, the fact that many of their peers are doing it compels them to follow their lead.
I imagine that many sports fans have wondered from time to time how come elite athletes are willing to risk experiencing the potential long-term damage to their bodies, the potential damage to their reputations and legacies, and the potential financial consequences that will befall them if they are caught using PED’s. I sincerely hope that I’ve offered you some illuminating insights into the minds and hearts of those athletes who choose to use PED’s in spite of all that they stand to lose if they’re caught doing so.
Thank you for taking valuable time out of your day to read this blog.
John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT/Dharma Life Coach & Sports Psychology Consultant