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Doping and Fair Play


Author Info

  • Nicolas Eber

    (LARGE, IEP and Ecole de Management Strasbourg, University of Strasbourg, France, IEP, 47 Avenue de la Forêt-Noire, 67000 Strasbourg, France.)


The conventional approach to the economic analysis of doping in sport is that athletes are typically involved in a Prisoner’s Dilemma-type interaction (Breivik 1987, Bird and Wagner 1997, Eber and Thépot 1999, Haugen 2004).1 The idea is straightforward: doping being a dominant strategy (i.e., yielding a preferred outcome regardless of the strategy used by the competitor), each athlete finds it optimal to take drugs; this results in a situation of generalized doping although each athlete would be better off in a dope-free world. However, athletes generally share some level of fair play norms that tend to inhibit them from doping.2 The importance of such ethics has been fully recognized by Bird and Wagner (1997, p. 755): “Doping is an unfair practice that is hard to define and observe; the only real hope for ending the practice of doping lies in the norms of fair competition among the athletes.”Eber (2008) recently showed that the incorporation of fair play norms into the analysis of the basic performance-enhancing drug game may lead to a substantial modification in the very nature of the game, switching it from a Prisoner’s Dilemma to a coordination (“stag-hunt”) game characterized by two (pure-strategy) equilibria: a “bad” – doping – equilibrium but also a “good” – no-doping – one. “Fair play” athletes then appear as “conditional cooperators:”guided by fair play values, they do not take drugs if they expect that their competitors also do not, but take drugs when they expect that others do the same. Hence, the main problem for athletes becomes to coordinate their intentions.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Queensland University of Technology (QUT), School of Economics and Finance in its journal Economic Analysis and Policy (EAP).

Volume (Year): 39 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 345-347

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Handle: RePEc:eap:articl:v39:y:2009:i:3:p:345-347

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Related research

Keywords: doping; economics of sport; illegal activities;

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  1. Nicolas Eber, 2011. "Fair play in contests," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 103(3), pages 253-270, July.
  2. Bird, Edward J. & Wagner, Gert G., 1997. "Sport as a Common Property Resource: A Solution to the Dilemmas of Doping," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 749-766.
  3. Ian Preston, 2003. "Cheating in Contests," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(4), pages 612-624, Winter.
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