To examine the effects of moral disengagement on doping likelihood and guilt, and to determine whether the effects of moral disengagement on doping likelihood are mediated by guilt and moderated by moral standards.
An experimental design was used to examine the effects of moral disengagement mechanisms on doping likelihood and guilt in hypothetical situations.
Athletes rated their doping likelihood and guilt in situations describing one of six moral disengagement mechanisms (moral justification, advantageous comparison, euphemistic labelling, distortion of consequences, displacement of responsibility, diffusion of responsibility) and in control (i.e., neutral) situations. Participants completed trait measures of moral agency, moral identity, moral perfectionism, and moral values.
Doping likelihood was higher and guilt was lower in each of the six moral disengagement situations compared to control situations. Moreover, doping likelihood and guilt differed among the moral disengagement situations. The increased likelihood of doping associated with most moral disengagement situations (except euphemistic labelling) was mediated by decreased guilt and moderated by moral agency and moral perfectionism.
The moral disengagement mechanisms changed the extent of the regulation over moral action to reveal a hierarchy of mechanisms for encouraging doping. That the effects of situational temptations on doping intentions were moderated by moral standards highlights the role played by moral agency and moral perfectionism to restrain dishonest conduct.