As the athletes on this list of athletes who were drug addicts prov that sports and hardcore drugs tragically seem to go hand-in-hand. It’s a sad fact that there are so many athletes addicted to drugs. And it’s not an uncommon story: a young, talented athlete is thrown into a completely new life filled with fame, fortune, and huge amounts of money. For the drug addicted athletes on this list, that money went right toward getting their fix.
Some athletes are able to move away from drug use and get their lives back on track. MLB All-Star Darryl Strawberry has come forward with his story of addiction, and before his death in 2008, Dock Ellis was actually hired by the Yankees to counsel their minor leaguers about the dangers of drug use. Sadly, other athletes do not share similar stories of recovery. Canadian hockey player Derek Boogaard, who died of an overdose, was able to get multiple doctors to write him prescriptions for drugs including hydrocodone, oxycodone, and Ambien before he passed away.
After being photographed smoking marijuana just months after his record-breaking Olympic performance, Michael Phelps announced over Twitter that he would be entering rehab. According to Brookhaven Hospital, the swimmer entered a six-week program with the hope of getting help.
According to Radar Online, Lamar Odom ” smoked more than $50,000 worth of cocaine” in a period of three years. He later overdosed at a Nevada brothel and nearly died.
As four-time World Series champion and eight-time MLB All-Star Darryl Strawberry told AL.com, “Drug addiction is very powerful. Drugs have been around sports forever and players have done them forever. I wasn’t the first one… there were a lot of other players who did them too. We were high-profile and there was more recognition on us because of the fall of who we were — such great talents at such a young age.”
American tennis legend Andre Agassi confessed in his autobiography to using crystal meth a year before he won the French Open in 1998. As CNN explained, “he took the highly addictive narcotic in 1997 while suffering poor form and to quell worries about his upcoming marriage to actress Brooke Shields.”
As Josh Hamilton wrote in his autobiography Beyond Belief, “Drugs had destroyed my body and my mind and my spirit. I could no longer experience happiness or surprise.” His addiction to cocaine was the cause of a three season ban from baseball, according to The LA Times.
In 2001, Leonard Bias died of cocaine intoxication. Bias was 22 and had just been drafted by the Boston Celtics. He was one of the most promising newcomers to professional basketball in decades. At first it was believed that his death came after Bias’s first time using the drug, but according to The LA Times, medical examiners later amended that statement, saying there was evidence that he used the drug before.
Argentinian soccer player Diego Maradona began using cocaine in the mid-1980s. Following an overdose in 2004, it Maradona attempted to live a sober lifestyle. As he said in 2007, “For my two daughters, I’m going to continue until the end. I’m alive and I want to keep living.”
According to CBS News, in 2004 pro football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor told 60 Minutes, ”I saw coke as the only bright spot in my future.” He went on to say, “I had gotten really bad. I mean my place was almost like a crack house, not where you sold it, but I had a lot of stuff in my house.”
Hockey player Theoren Fleury recalls his years playing for the Rangers as a “nightmare,” according to The New York Times. Apparently from 1999 to 2002 he would stay out all night drinking and doing cocaine.
At the height of his career, Todd Marinovich became a “hard-core drug addict” who “lost his career, and nearly his life, in a haze of pot, cocaine and heroin,” according to The LA Times.
As Dwight Gooden expressed to The NY Post in 2014 upon his 50th birthday (and three years of sober living), “I’ve been to rehabs. I’ve been to counseling. I’ve been to jail. I’ve been in prison. The only place I haven’t been yet is the cemetery.”
Canadian hockey player Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment as the result of an oxycodone overdose in 2011, according to USA Today. Boogaard was able to get multiple doctors to write him prescriptions for drugs including hydrocodone, oxycodone, and Ambien.
Dock Ellis died in 2008 at the age of 63 as the result of liver disease, according to The New York Times. He began using drugs as a teenager and entered a substance-abuse treatment center after leaving baseball. He later went on to work as a drug and alcohol counselor and was even hired by the Yankees to counsel about substance abuse with their minor league.
In 2006 it was reported by ESPN that Ricky Williams had “violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy for a fourth time.” Prior to the incident Williams had tested positive for marijuana three times.