Are Athletes the Biggest Addicts Out There?
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Are Athletes the Biggest Addicts Out There?


The last three weeks have generated plenty of drug-related headlines involving some of the most recognizable athletes in sports, both past and present. True, it may not shock anyone that athletes do drugs. Still, there sure are a lot of athlete addicts out there making headlines of late.

But are they addicts?

Well, that’s what their detractors say. While ESPN host Skip Bayless hasn’t exactly gained a reputation for mincing words, he’s raised more than a couple eyebrows after calling Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel an “alcoholic” because the NFL star allegedly threw a wild house party that caused him to miss a team appointment. After saying, “It’s time for Johnny to get some help…he continues to lie to himself,” his co-host Stephen A. Smith gave Bayless the opportunity to retract his statement. Instead, Bayless doubled-down by calling Manziel an alcoholic and adding, “I think he can’t handle his liquor.”

While Manziel’s actions may have been irresponsible, it’s a little unfair to accuse a 22-year-old multi-millionaire of alcoholism because he threw a party that was no different from your average frat house affair. Although Manziel denied that he threw a party at his house and insisted he was out with his friends, he accepted the fine imposed on him by Browns officials and apologized to his team.

“It’s about actions,” he said. “It’s about being accountable and doing what I’m going to say [I’ll do] instead of looking like a jackass…it was a mistake…I brought this on myself.”

UFC champion Jon Jones, meanwhile, checked into rehab earlier this month after testing positive for benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite in cocaine. Although he reportedly passed a follow-up test later that month, Jones still got his ass into treatment once word of his original failed test broke; he later apologized for the whole drug thing to his fans.

Though he’s certainly not the first, Jones seems to have gone the rehab route in an effort to do some damage control. Even his mom admitted that his stay at a New Mexico drug treatment center lasted all of one night, which means that his mea cupla rehab trip was either a publicity stunt or that he’s only the person on the planet to fully kick a drug habit in 24 hours. UFC President Dana White has remained mum on the whole debacle, stating, “When the whole story comes out, people will understand.” If you say so, Dana.

There are, of course, more sobering drug-related sports stories out there—like the one about NBA star Roy Tarpley, who recently passed away at the age of 50 after a career that was cut short by drug addiction.

While it’s unclear if Tarpley’s death was drug-related, he struggled with substance abuse problems throughout his career. The one-time can’t miss prospect was kicked out of the NBA for cocaine abuse in 1991 and reinstated with a $20 million contract to play for the Dallas Mavericks in 1994. He was permanently banned in December 1995 for reportedly violating the terms of a court-imposed personal aftercare program.

Tarpley later sued the NBA in 2007, claiming that his was firing was discriminatory due to his disability as a recovering addict and alcoholic. The suit was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount in 2009, but I think we have to call it a hollow victory considering the current circumstances.

Photo courtesy of Erik Daniel Drost (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

McCarton Ackerman is a writer and editor living in New York City. His work has been featured in Time Out New York, The Advocate, and The Daily Mail. He can also been seen performing stand-up comedy at bars and clubs around the city.