Anti-doping study supported by IOC

A research team, spearheaded by a La Trobe University sports economist, has been awarded approximately $130,000, as part of the International Olympic Committee’s 2017 Anti-Doping Research Grant scheme to combat one of sport’s biggest challenges.

Dr Liam Lenten, Senior Lecturer in La Trobe’s Department of Economics and Finance and his collaborator, Professor Ralph Bayer (University of Adelaide), were successful in winning IOC funding for the project: “Identification of Optimal Deterrence Policy Settings to Circumvent Doping”.

Dr Lenten is determined to see the economics discipline exert greater influence on anti-doping policy, a realm typically dominated by various medical and behavioural sciences, and even sports management.

He said the funding would allow the research team to test the relative effectiveness of the range of standard doping punishments, in terms of their ability to desirably influence athlete behaviour.

“Current anti-doping enforcement currently relies on suspensions and fines. Our research will also consider innovative anti-doping policy ideas that can be used in tandem with existing punishments,” Dr Lenten said.

“As economists, we are most interested in the incentives involved. Under this policy, older riders close to retirement who are not likely swayed by the threat of suspension as their younger colleagues, would be financially far better incentivised to stay clean”.

“In the project overall, we want to find ways to create more balance between stick and carrot, which tends to intensify the behavioural effect of policies”.

And Dr Lenten has begun to put his theory to a rigorous scientific test.

“The best way of ascertaining the policy proposal’s effectiveness is via the field of experimental economics”, he said.

The early signs are promising.

“We have already refined our study design, and soon Professor Bayer will begin conducting the human experiments using the University of Adelaide’s economic laboratory facilities”, Dr Lenten said.

“This is an innovative, practical project to combat an intractable problem with no other solutions currently being offered; plus it has potential further applicability to other forms of gross athlete misconduct, such as match-fixing. Now we need to determine whether the results match the intuition.”

The researchers plan to complete the final policy experiments by mid-2018 and have the results presented to the sport industry, other stakeholder groups and the public in early 2019.

Contact: Dr Liam Lenten Tel: + 61 3 9479 3607, E-mail: