Sports stars are usually associated with peak physical fitness, and for that to happen, one usually has to steer clear of vices such as cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. But not all sports stars follow these rules, or, indeed, are not capable of following them. Drug addiction can affect people from all backgrounds, from the everyday worker to even some of the world’s most famous sports superstars! Let’s take a look at some of the household names who battled their problems with drugs alongside their battles on the field or court – as well as a look at how this may be an even bigger problem in the future.
Young Sports Stars
Drug use in sports sometimes has a happy ending, and sometimes has a sad ending. In some cases, however, drugs mean the stories of promising sports stars never get to be told. Publications such as Sports Illustrated have noted how blossoming sports careers are being cut down, all because of one injury. Following minor surgeries, people are often given painkillers as they continue their recovery at home. The only problem is, they then get addicted to the opioid painkillers and, without any consensus on how to treat this problem in the medical community, turn to harder, illegal drugs to get their fix. Pretty soon, the career they once may have had is no more. This goes to show just how easy it is for people involved in sports to turn to drugs – no matter how old or talented they are.
Perhaps the most famous revelation in recent years was Agassi admitting that he was using crystal meth while he was a tennis professional. When he failed a drug test in 1997, Agassi blamed it on a spiked drink – and got away with it. However, in his 2009 autobiography, Open, he came clean with the truth: he had, in fact, been smoking crystal meth at the time and just blamed a spiked drink for his failed drug test to see if it worked. 1997 wasn’t the best time for Agassi’s tennis career. Suffering with niggling injuries that kept his tennis matches to a minimum, he turned to the drug after being given it by a friend. Reaction was, as you might expect, pretty heated – while the public were stunned, fellow professionals such as Roger Federer expressed disappointment and Marat Safin even went as far to say Agassi should lose his prize money and titles.
Being one of, if not the greatest player of all time comes with plenty of benefits, but there’s also an immense pressure too. And if you have the personality of Diego Maradona, that pressure can sometimes take you down some dark paths. Maradona was addicted to cocaine from the early eighties until 2004, which covers a large part of his footballing career. He first used the drug when he was at Barcelona in 1983, just prior to his then world-record fee move to Napoli. In 1991, he was banned for 15 months after failing a drug test for cocaine. Then, after scoring a goal in the 1994 world cup, a hyperactive goal celebration suggested he was under the influence of things other than the euphoria of scoring a goal. He was found to have used illicit substances and banned from the tournament.
Drugs will normally make a sports professional play worse than normal, but that’s not always the case. On June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter (for non baseball fans, think: had probably the best game of his career) while reportedly under the influence of psychedelic drug LSD. While the batters saw Ellis throwing strike after strike, Ellis claims he was having a pretty wild trip: he thought he was pitching to Jimi Hendrix, who was using a guitar as a bat. He says he never played a game of baseball without the use of drugs. Eventually, he did give up drugs after he finished playing, and even went on to become a drugs counsellor.
…and the rest
Many sports stars never reveal their drug use, fearing that they will be reproached in some way by the sport’s governing body. But there are plenty of tales out there. Which sports star surprised you with their drug use?
This is an article by Helen Cairns.