Top 15 Athletes Battling Addiction

Many Americans struggle with addiction and that includes the most reputable athletes. Addiction has affected athletes in every sport: basketball, hockey, baseball, football and soccer. If you have had a favorite athlete struggle with substance abuse, this might not faze you, but for others, it is a tragedy and can prove to be very disappointing. However, it shows that athletes are humans first and it could happen to the best of us. The culture of professional sports can become quite dangerous for a lot of athletes, especially because of the influence from peers and others.

Players' behavior, oftentimes, send them into a spiral road to addiction. The pressure can be catastrophic and in some cases, the athlete is unable to get back to the surface. In other instances, the player will drop deeper into the addiction and never make it back to the game that was once loved. There are different forms of addiction namely, drugs, alcohol and gambling. These can all damage a person’s life, but when in the spotlight, it can ruin their reputation, leaving them alone, broke and possibly over-indulgent in their addiction. When someone’s life is out of control because of drugs, it can be quite difficult to restore their position as athletes. Additionally, addiction is not an easy feat to beat. It can end someone’s life as well as continually cause damage throughout the athlete’s lifespan. With their notable accomplishments and huge personalities on TV, athletes are more vulnerable it seems when it comes to beating addiction. The notoriety and pressure from the public may stand in the way. Personal problems may prompt an athlete to seek solace in drugs, painkillers, alcohol or gambling. While it doesn’t have to be so, it certainly is a reality. Some athletes have used their experience to help others, which is commendable. Below are stories of 15 athletes who battled or are battling the demon of addiction.

15 15. Johnny Manziel

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14 14. Jeremy Mayfield


13 13. Barret Robbins


12 12. Art Schlichter


11 11. Erik Ainge


10 10. Michael Phelps

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

9 9. Michael Chopra


8 8. JaMarcus Russell


7 7. Dwight Gooden


6 6. Ricky Williams


5 5. Darren McCarty


4 4. Michael Irvin

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of stories about Michael Irvin – too many to mention here. One time, the Hall of Fame wide receiver was caught in a hotel room with prostitutes, sex toys, marijuana and cocaine. The grand jury subsequently indicted him for the cocaine possession. He also received a misdemeanor for possessing weed. After, Irvin retired from the game of football; he was also arrested for possession of drugs. He was also accused of sexually assaulting someone in 2007, but charges were never filed.

3 3. Ryan Leaf


Some NFL players are known to take painkillers for head trauma and other injuries incurred during the game of football, but it can sometimes lead to substance abuse.

Ryan Leaf would go on to be known as the biggest draft bust in NFL history. In 1998, he was chosen as the second overall pick after Peyton Manning. His time in the NFL was short. He was released after just three seasons with the San Diego Chargers. To combat the pain suffered from shoulder and wrist injuries, he took painkillers and soon was addicted to them. Since he left the NFL in 2002, he has pled guilty for being involved in stealing or illegally possessing narcotic painkillers.

2 2. Keith McCants


In the 1990 NFL draft, Keith McCants was the fourth pick overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He signed a contract for $4.4 million. The team didn’t do well and so the Buccaneers released McCants. For three years after that, he made sporadic appearances for the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons. Due to constant knee injuries and subsequent bad performances, he was out of football after the 1995 season.

1 1. Josh Hamilton

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Hamilton had a history with drugs and alcohol from way back as the beginning of his baseball career in 1999. After receiving an injury in an automobile accident in 2001, he began to take crack cocaine and overindulge in alcohol. He went in and out of rehab and by 2006, he was no longer playing baseball. This was due to numerous suspensions and voluntary time off because of his drug habit. Although, he went to the World Series twice with the Rangers and received an MVP award in 2010, his drug and alcoholic problems haveconstantly plagued him. He relapsed in 2009 as well as 2012.

It was reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports that Hamilton again relapsed around Super Bowl week, following an argument with his wife. Hamilton wrote himself a check to cash, as he cannot carry cash or credit cards. That night, he wound up at a strip club and used cocaine. A decision from the MLB will determine what kind of discipline Hamilton will face, but the real story is if he can ever defeat his demons.

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Top 15 Athletes Battling Addiction