Erickson and Co-Workers Explained:

“The ripples are big.” Storying the impact of doping in sport beyond the sanctioned athlete.

Reference: Erickson, K and Backhouse, SH and Carless, D (2016) "The ripples are big": Storying the impact of doping in sport beyond the sanctioned athlete. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 24. 92 - 99.



What were the research questions?

Qualitatively address this gap in the literature by:
  1. providing a platform for elite ‘clean athletes’ to share their personal experiences in relation to doping in sport
  2. raising the voices of ‘clean athletes’ who have been personally affected by others’ use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) in sport
  3. highlighting the potential ripple effect (i.e. direct/indirect impact on subsequent events/situations/people) that PED use in sport can have.

How was the scientific problem approached?

  • 4 athletes from multiple countries agreed to participate
  • Face-to-face interviews (average length = 82 minutes), unstructured/conversational. Only 1 structured question was used: “How have you been personally affected by others’ use of PEDs?”
  • All interviews were audio recorded and transcribed

How did the researchers interpret their results?

  • Storytelling approach, use of Creative Nonfiction (CNF) to represent the data
  • While the retired athletes seemed to be telling stories from the perspective of ‘looking back’; the competing athletes shared stories with a ‘future focus’. Two stories would be created rather than one in order to represent these two diverging accounts
  • Direct quotes were maintained from the interview transcripts as much as possible to preserve each of the individuals’ spoken words
  • the experiences and ideas contained in the narrative skeletons were linked together by writing around them so that a full and flowing representation of the combined stories was produced.

Creative nonfiction in research

  • There are three types of CNF: (1) portrait, (2) snapshot, and (3) composite. Portrait CNF demonstrates an individual’s character and voice; snapshot CNF provides a description of what was observed in a situation; and, composite CNF combines the stories of multiple individuals into one (Blodgett et al., 2011).
  • CNF stories do not tell readers how to think or feel about something, nor what emotions should be aroused; they present the experiences of individuals as they experienced them, with as little altering and/or editing as possible
  • A central element of CNF is the use of many techniques of fiction (e.g. contextualised, vernacular language; composite characters; dialogue; metaphor; allusions; flashbacks and flash forwards; tone shifts, etc.) to communicate results in compelling and emotionally vibrant ways (Smith, 2013).

What did they find?

  • Doping does not only affect the individual doping athlete; on the contrary, the use of PEDs can – and does – have consequences for numerous individuals, teams, organisations, sports, and even nations. Likewise, the duration of the impact is not static; it can linger long after an athlete’s sport career ends.
Supporting Resources


Key Messages




Links to the research paper


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