Understanding what influences adolescent athletes is important for managers designing anti-doping initiatives. It is commonly assumed that elite athletes who dope influence adolescent athletes to similarly dope. Using the theory of normative social behavior, the effect of norms on adolescent athletes’ intentions to use steroids was examined. The social distance between respondents and the source of normative information was systematically varied to include four separate levels (friends, teammates, college athletes, professional athletes). Data were collected from 404 male adolescent athletes. Participants indicated their intentions to use steroids and their perceptions of descriptive and injunctive norms of referent others. Descriptive and injunctive norms were predictive of intentions to use steroids with the magnitude of explained variance greater with more proximal referents. Adolescent athletes’ intentions to use steroids are influenced by social norms. Moreover, the social distance of referents is consequential. Interventions strategies should incorporate teammates and friends, rather than professional athletes.
Jules Woolf is with Department of Kinesiology at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Rajiv N. Rimal is the Chair of the Department of Prevention and Community Health at The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Pooja Sripad is a PhD Candidate in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD.