Performance Innovation in Sport: Exploring the impact of performance and image enhancing drugs and substances in community sport

Sport as a business and recreational pursuit has been the beneficiary of innovation directed at both the spectator experience and athlete performance. Regarding the latter, innovation in equipment and clothing can provide the athlete with greater speed, accuracy or endurance, often measured in micro-seconds.

Further enhancement of the athlete’s physical and mental capabilities also contributes to higher levels of performance. As a result, innovation in performance and image enhancing drugs and substances aims to enhance athlete performance but often is also designed to circumvent governance procedures that detect banned substances. Further, there is the potential for some of these substances to deliver short term benefits but at a longer term cost to the athlete’s physical and/or mental wellbeing.

PIEDS constitute any material an individual enters (through ingestion or injection) into, or applies on the surface of his or her body, to enhance physical performance or appearance. Included are pharmaceutical drugs (prescription, e.g. amphetamines; over-the-counter, e.g. alcohol, analgesics, caffeine; illicit, e.g. cocaine) and dietary or nutritional supplements (e.g. amino acids). Also included are substances athletes use for recreational, recovery or stress-management purposes, and which may be perceived as indirectly performance enhancing. PIEDS further encompass any substance used for augmenting aesthetic bodily appearance, but exclude cosmetics and ‘cosmeceuticals’ applied to the skin. On the basis of a meta-analysis of available international studies, it has been estimated that more than 90% of all people who play sport, irrespective of performance level, have used some form of PIEDS to pursue a competitive benefit at some time in their sporting lives (Stewart and Smith, 2014).

This project explores the increasing myriad of performance enhancing drugs and substances in sport, and in particular, their presence in community sport. While the issue of PIEDS has long been debated in professional and elite sport, and the World Anti-Doping Agency has strict rules and protocols in place to manage the use of these substances, no such barriers or monitoring exists in community sport. However, there is evidence to suggest that there are mounting pressures at the community sport level to improve performance to take advantage of lucrative opportunities, to recover more quickly from injury and to enhance appearance to become more marketable and attract both media interest and sponsorship.

In particular, this research project will explore the following:

  • The understanding of what constitutes PIEDS at the community sport level (club executive, coaches, athletes and parents).
  • How/where various sport stakeholders access information on PIEDS.
  • Attitude toward the use of different types of PIEDS (from pain relievers, vitamins and energy drinks to steroids, amphetimines and hormones).
  • Use and intended use of PIEDS by athletes and factors that influence usage.
  • Perceived use of PIEDS in community sport.
  • The broader factors in the community sport system that influence attitudes and usage of PIEDS.
  • The processes in place at the community sport level to educate, monitor and manage the use of PIEDS.

Identification of the potential effects of PIEDS without monitoring systems in place

Proposed postgraduate research program

  • School: School of Economics, Finance and Marketing
  • Course code: DR203
  • Program name: PhD (Economics, Finance & Marketing)

Value and duration

A stipend of $32,000 per year over the duration of three years.

Number of scholarships available



To be considered for scholarship you must hold, or be currently completing either:

• Master by research
• Master by coursework with a significant research component graded as high distinction, or equivalent
• Honours degree achieving first class honours
• 4 year bachelor degree achieving a GPA of 4 or equivalent (80% or above).

If you do not hold one of the above qualifications you will only be considered for scholarship if you have previous peer reviewed publications or significant research experience.

Please make sure that you check the individual eligibility requirements of these scholarships prior to submitting your application.

It is also important to note that the scholarship rounds are highly competitive and satisfying the eligibility requirements does not guarantee a successful outcome. When a scholarship round closes all applications are received are ranked in order of merit. This process takes five to six weeks to complete. Applicants are typically advised of the outcome of a scholarship round five to six weeks after the round closes for applications.

How to apply

How to apply: International applicants need to apply for admission via iApply and ensure that there is an offer in place before submitting a scholarship application via the Graduate Research Scholarship application form. Domestic applicants can continue to apply for both admission and scholarship via this Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Admission and Scholarship Application Form (PDF). Domestic applicants who already hold an offer of admission from RMIT for a PhD or Masters by Research program but have not enrolled may apply for a scholarship using the Graduate Research Scholarship application form.

Open date

Applications are open until 4 May 2018. International applicants must have an offer of place prior to applying for a scholarship and are encouraged to submit an admission application by 27 April 2018.

Terms and conditions

See the research scholarship terms and conditions (PDF 327KB) for more information.


Associate Professor Kate Westberg
+61 3 9925 5512

Associate Professor Con Stavros
+61 3 9925 5531