The first week of October is quickly becoming “the week of dope” – and not in a Randy Jackson American Idol sort of way. First we hear that Alberto Contador, the recent Tour de France winner has tested positive not just for trace amounts of a PED, but also for a plastic residue found in blood bags. Then, we hear ever so quietly that Steve Gregory of the San Diego Chargers popped positive. To hear a cyclist popping, even the face of the sport, is not too terribly unexpected – they are tested constantly. To hear of an NFL player – that was surprising. Not surprising in that I am naive enough to think there are no PEDs in football. Rather surprising in that for someone to pop in such a lightly tested sport is almost a miracle.
Again, a huge thank you to the world of sport for providing a reflection of life. This time they help us see ever so clearly how behaviors are reinforced and perpetuated based upon feedback. Call it risk versus reward; positive or negative reinforcement. There is no question behaviors are encouraged or discouraged based upon the feedback the behavior elicits. And we all know, we cannot mention the world of sport without mentioning Performance Enhancing Drugs.
So what does any of this have to do with behavior? Consider this – Contador is looking at a 2 year suspension. Gregory – 4 games. Seriously, 2 years versus 4 weeks. Bash the Olympic sports all you wish, but there is no question they are serious about trying to eliminate doping in their sports. Clearly the NFL does not really care. The players know it and will act accordingly. The rewards far outweighs the risk in professional sports – at least in the United States and certainly in the NFL.
It is the ultimate question for leaders, coaches, educators and even parents – how does one influence behavior? How can you get someone to do, or not do, something? There are countless answers to that question, but one of them is clearly based on feedback. What feedback are you providing for certain behaviors? Are your actions, or inaction, encouraging or discouraging certain behaviors. Think about sports and the culture of doping – what message do the individual sports send to their players and their fans? Telling on a host of levels.