There is a long history of athletes who may have misused both prescription and illegal drugs for many different reasons.
Whatever their reasons are to take these drugs, the impact on their long-term physical and psychological health can be devastating, not to mention they’re likely to encounter serious legal problems and potentially be banned from their sport.
There are of course some circumstances where sportsmen and women would be prescribed medication, but if they begin to consume this drug more regularly than has been advised, this is considered drug misuse which can lead to a dependence on the substance.
Why do sportsmen and women misuse drugs?
One of the reasons why athletes have misused prescription or illegal drugs in the past are to cope with their mental health problems. Athletes often receive treatment for physical injuries but are less likely to request treatment for their mental health as there is still a stigma attached to asking for help; some still see this as a weakness.
Another common reason why sportsmen and women may misuse drugs is to improve their athletic performance; steroids are frequently used to gain an edge on the competition. This is widely known as doping and is common across many different sports, different ages, and across all levels of competition.
Other reasons for misusing drugs in sport are to deal with the peer pressure as so many other athletes are involved in substance abuse. They may misuse drugs to cope with their retirement which can be a very difficult transition for athletes as they miss the adrenaline rush of competition.
Some athletes may also consume drugs to help treat their physical injuries as a way to cope with the pain and recover quicker.
In some cases, sportsmen and women have become addicted to their prescribed painkillers for an injury as they become more and more dependent on the substance.
Which athletes have a history abusing drugs?
Some of the most famous and loved athletes have a history of misusing drugs.
In 2016, Maria Sharapova was provisionally banned from competing in tennis when she failed a drugs test at the Australian Open. She has been taking a drug called meldonium for over 10 years for health reasons and was unaware that it’s also called mildronate which had recently been listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list.
There was evidence of athletes using this drug with the intention of enhancing their performance, therefore Maria Sharapova was banned from competing for 15 months.
At the 1994 World Cup, famous Argentine footballer Diego Maradona tested positive for five variants of ephedrine which is a drug used to increase energy and alertness in addition to losing weight by speeding up your metabolism.
Prior to this in 1991, he was banned by Napoli for 15 months after testing positive for cocaine. Later that year, he was arrested for possessing half-kilo of cocaine which resulted in a 14-month suspended sentence.
As Maradona continued to struggle with drug misuse, his health quickly deteriorated and he suffered an overdose in 2000, followed by a heart attack in 2004.
Lance Armstrong spent years denying allegations of doping, but in 2013 during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during each Tour de France he won from 1999 to 2005.
He stated that he used testosterone and human growth hormones as well as EPO, a hormone which is naturally produced by human kidneys to stimulate red blood cell production which increases the amount of oxygen that can be delivered to your muscles; this improves recovery time and endurance.
As a result of his drug misuse, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins.
In 2003 on the night before the cricket World Cup against Pakistan, the Australian Board announced that Shane Warne had failed a routine drug test and wouldn’t take part in the competition.
He had tested positive for Moduretic which is a prescription drug widely used to treat hypertension, high blood pressure and fluid retention, however, it could also act as a masking agent for steroids as it dilutes any traces of the substance in the urine.
This failed drug test resulted in a 12 month ban from cricket.
American sprinter Tyson Gay was set to give Usain Bolt a run for his money back in July 2013 whilst competing in the 100-metre sprint.
He tested positive for a banned substance so was removed from the tournament; he was thought to be illegally using anabolic steroids.
In May 2014, he was banned from the sport for 12 months and forfeited the Olympic silver medal he’d won as a part of the US 4×100 metre team at the London Olympics.
The former UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva boasted 10 straight title defenses and was widely considered to be one of the greatest fighters of the generation.
After his win against Nick Diaz, Anderson Silva tested positive for steroids which resulted in a 1-year ban from the sport.
He attempted to blame the failed drugs test on a sexual enhancement drug that a friend had given him, but this wasn’t accepted.
In 2017, it emerged that Silva has failed another drug test, testing positive for synthetic testosterone and a banned diuretic. However, it was later revealed that the positive test for banned substances in 2017 was a result of contaminated supplements purchased from a compounding pharmacy in Brazil and was therefore not intentional doping.
The pharmacy had failed to list all of the ingredients on the label and claimed to utilise manufacturing processes which eliminated any possibility of cross-contamination.
Drug misuse is widespread amongst high school, college, and professional athletes. This is a serious issue and has been for a long time now.
There are many recovery programmes and facilities available to support those who are suffering from drug abuse, it’s very important to seek out help sooner rather than later.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. There are a variety of treatment options available, and the sooner you get started on the road to recovery, the better. Addiction is a difficult illness to overcome, but with the help of qualified professionals, it is possible to achieve lasting sobriety. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. It could be the best decision you ever make.
Call our addiction specialists today to start your journey to sobriety.