Social validation: a motivational theory of doping in an online bodybuilding community

Brendan Hutchinson, Stephen Moston, Terry Engelberg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Doping research has predominantly been framed through an ethical lens, implicitly restricted to the realms of elite sport. Despite increasing anecdotal evidence of growing prevalence rates amongst recreational athletes, such as bodybuilders, these populations have largely been neglected within psychological research. This study aims to develop a theoretical framework relevant to these athletes. Data were collected over a five-month period from an online community forum dedicated to recreational bodybuilders. Purposive sampling was used to gather 118 webpages of doping-related discussion, which were qualitatively analysed using grounded theory applying Strauss’s coding paradigm. Inductive categories were integrated into a motivational framework that related recreational doping to social validation. Categories included the online community’s rite of passage, normative-inferences that facilitated doping, and deterrence factors related to fear of perceived health risks. Findings demonstrate that, for recreational bodybuilders, psychosocial processes are significantly related to doping motives, and that health factors are primary doping deterrents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-282
JournalSport in Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


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