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Postgraduate Research Opportunity

The role of personal ethics in athlete and stakeholder perceptions of anti-doping

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Title: The Role of Personal Ethics in Athlete and Stakeholder Perceptions of Anti-Doping

Application deadline: 31 May 2019

Start date: October 2019

Duration: 3 years (full time)

Location: Colchester Campus

Based in: School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences


This prestigious World Anti-Doping Agency funded project provides a fully funded studentship to examine the role of personal ethics in athlete and stakeholder perceptions of anti-doping.

After exploring the life-histories of known and unknown IPED users and examining the moral mechanisms that are dominant within individuals, the project will ultimately use this information to develop a bespoke value-based anti-doping training programme that attempts to target an athlete’s core values.

Whilst there has been a great deal of attention focused within the anti-doping literature on moral processes, existing evidence has primarily viewed morality through limited theoretical lenses and heavily influenced by Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory. Unlike moral pluralists such as James (1909/1987), Kohlberg (1971, p. 232) argued that “Virtue is ultimately one, not many [processes], and it is always the same ideal form regardless of climate or culture”.

This absolutist view of morality argues that certain acts are inherently right or wrong, however, such a position has been heavily criticised. For example, Gilligan (1982) criticised Kohlberg’s view of moral development and suggested that an ethic of care could not be derived from an ethic of justice. Kohlberg’s theory of moral development has also been criticised for being androgenic (Gilligan, 1977) and for placing too great an emphasis on rational thought (Greene & Haidt, 2002).

Haidt and Joseph (2004) have since built upon the theories presented thus far to develop a unified framework for studying morality across cultures (i.e., Moral Foundations Theory; MFT). As doping is a global issue and WADA a global organisation, the pluralistic approach to morality encompassed within MFT may help to capture a broader range of culturally sensitive moral processes related to doping than those previously adopted.

Qualitative and quantitative methodologies will be used in the project and an interest in research methods is desirable. Prior knowledge of doping and a background in Sport Psychology/Moral Psychology/Social Psychology or Sport and Exercise Science is also advantageous.


The studentship is supervised by Dr John Mills and situated within the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Essex. The candidate will also have access to an international network of highly experienced and talented Co-Investigators on this project including: Drs Jordan Axt (Duke University), Ian Boardley (University of Birmingham), Rick O’Gorman (University of Essex), and Zachary Zenko (CSU Bakersfield).


The award consists of a full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (further fee details) and an annual doctoral stipend of £13,500.

The appointee will also be eligible to apply to the University’s Graduate Learning Assistant (GLA) scheme (£15.88 per hour). Typically, a GLA will work between 6-10 hours per week depending on their experience and desire to gain teaching experience within Higher Education.

How to apply

You can apply for this postgraduate research opportunity online.

The candidate must include a CV, covering letter, 1500-word research proposal, transcripts of any undergraduate or masters programmes within this application, and a copy of their most recent dissertation within their application.

A referee is also required. This should be your most recent dissertation supervisor (academia) or line manager (industry). Your referee will not be contacted until a conditional offer has been made.

Instruction to applicants

When you apply online you will be prompted to fill out several boxes in the form:

  • For "Course title" please put "PhD in Sport and Exercise Science"
  • For "Proposed research topic or area of research" please put the title of this studentship (The Role of Personal Ethics in Athlete and Stakeholder Perceptions of Anti-Doping)
  • For "If you have contacted a potential supervisor..." please put the name of the lead supervisor (Dr John Mills)

If you have any informal enquiries about this opportunity please email Dr John Mills (john.mills@essex.ac.uk)