A Qualitative Investigation of Moral Disengagement in English Bodybuilders

Ian Boardley, Andrew Dewar, Jonathan Grix

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The current study was designed to extend previous work investigating the psychosocial processes facilitating use of performance enhancing drugs in bodybuilders. Applying Bandura’s (1991) social cognitive theory of moral thought and action, Boardley and Grix (in revision) completed in-depth semi-structured interviews with nine bodybuilders from a single gym in the West Midlands region of England. Deductive and inductive data analysis resulted in the identification of nine data themes relevant to Bandura’s theory. However, the work of Boardley and Grix is limited in that it investigated athletes from just one gym, and it is therefore not known whether these themes apply more widely. To address this limitation, the present study builds on the work of Boardley and Grix by investigating a much larger sample of male bodybuilders representing all of the nine government regions of England. Data collection is ongoing (target N = 60+), but preliminary analysis of data from the 29 interviews conducted to date supports the findings of Boardley and Grix (in revision). Themes identified by Boardley and Grix and supported in preliminary analysis of the current data illustrate the use of six mechanisms of moral disengagement (all except dehumanization and attribution of blame) and suggest use of these mechanisms facilitates justification of use of illicit substances, as well as the psychological nullification of potentially harmful health implications associated with their use. Three further themes also supported in the current data pertain to: routinization of doping, family/friends knowledge of athletes’ doping, and progression from supplement use to doping. Overall, the current findings extend the findings of Boardley and Grix (in revision) to a large nationally sourced sample and therefore contribute important knowledge on the psychological and social processes that facilitate initiation and continuation of doping in English male bodybuilders.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of Sport & Exercise Psychology
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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