Risk and enabling environments in sport: Systematic doping as harm reduction

April Henning*, Katherine McLean, Jesper Andreasson, Paul Dimeo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Doping and the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are often considered and discussed as a separate issue from other types of substance use, by sporting bodies, politicians, the media, and athletes who use drugs themselves. However, perceptions and understandings of substance use in the sport and fitness world are directly related to those of substance use in the non-sport world. One way the gap between sport and non-sport substance use research can be bridged is to consider sport risk and enabling environments. Similar to non-sport contexts and drug use, it is important to analyse the environments in which doping occurs. This approach allows us to examine the dynamic interplay between risk and enabling factors, as the enabling environment shifts in response to changes produced in the risk environment, and vice versa. There are models of sport environments that have proven effective at both enabling doping by athletes and reducing harms to athletes: systematic doping. This article will use secondary literature in order to review and analyse known cases of systematic doping through the risk and enabling environment frameworks. We argue that these systems responded to anti-doping in ways that protected athletes from the risk factors established by anti-doping policy and that athletes suffered most when these systems were revealed, exposing athletes to the full range of doping harms. Further, we argue that risks within these systems (i.e. extortion, bullying) resulted from the broader prohibitive sport environment that forces doping underground and allows such abuses to occur.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102897
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date4 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Doping
  • Harm reduction
  • Risk environment
  • Sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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