Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Professional Sports

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Drug and alcohol abuse are disorders that do not discriminate.  People of all nationalities, ethnic groups and in all income levels suffer from these disorders. Even elite professional athletes, like those that compete in the Olympics, or in the National Football League (NFL), suffer with drug and alcohol abuse problems. It can be particularly difficult for these people to cope with the stress and anxiety of constant public pressure and many of them learn to cope through substance abuse.  Allegations of doping, or the use of performance enhancing drugs, often follow athletes from year to year and may plague an athlete’s entire career.

Reasons why Professional Athletes Suffer From Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Professional athletes are no different than the rest of us.  They have stress and anxiety in their lives, and many are extremely sensitive to the pressures of professional athletics.  Any decrease in performance threatens not only their physical well-being, if there is an injury for example, but also their mental well-being, especially in situations where they may no longer be able to compete.  Many athletes are unable to find healthy ways to cope with those pressures and instead turn to performance enhancing substances, or drug and alcohol abuse.  While performance enhancing drugs may seem like a quick fix or offer an advantage in competition, in the long term such substance abuse damages the body and results in decreased performance.

Fighting Drug and Alcohol Abuse In Athletics

Some fans feel that a culture of drug and alcohol abuse has evolved in professional sports where athletes are constantly trying to improve their performance or out-do each other. Enhancing performance with amphetamines or other stimulants may be seen as an appropriate risk in a sport where winning is so important that it defines a player in every facet of their value. Peer pressure within the team, and desire to live up to role models can increase the risks of drug and alcohol abuse.  Unfortunately these pressures can destroy an athlete’s body and future.

Professional Athletes with Drug and Alcohol Abuse Problems

Many athletes have openly discussed their struggles with substance and alcohol abuse and mental illness, like depression or anxiety.  The NFL, NBA and the Olympics have substance abuse policies that all players and teams must follow.  These policy are enforced by the leagues, the coaches and in some cases, even international doping committees.

In 2012, Roger Diehl, an offensive player for the New York Giants, was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).  In addition to the legal repercussions and fines for criminal behavior, which may top over $500,000 Diehl is facing suspension from the team for violating the NFL’s policy on drug and alcohol abuse.

Lance Armstrong recently gave up a battle against doping charges which have plagued his successful cycling career.  After winning seven Tour de France titles, Lance’s career was marred by allegations of doping, brought to cycling officials by other teams, and even team members.  Although Lance has continually denied those charges, he has refused to continue to fight in court to clear his name, preferring instead to focus on his cancer research foundation, Livestrong.

Stress and pressure at work, school or on the field can cause individuals to look for solutions.  Chemical solutions, like drug and alcohol abuse are dangerous to your long term health and can actually have the opposite of the intended effect.  It is better to learn healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the competition and stress.