There are a lot of things that come with the success achieved as a professional athlete, but most people think of the aspects involving fame and fortune while ignoring the very real stress and temptations that also exists. Being a professional athlete is not easy by any means, and ignoring the daily temptations that are present is often too difficult for a great number of professional athletes to handle. Many athletes have used their addictive personalities to devote themselves to reaching the pinnacle of their sport, but it is that same addictive personality that can ultimately derail their career.
It happens quite often that an athlete becomes addicted to illegal substances or alcohol and must seek out help in order to overcome the problems that have been caused by the abuse. For many of these athletes, even a successful stint in rehab will not mean that they will be able to permanently put their issues behind them. Relapses occur and careers are irreparably harmed because of abuse, and everyone involved can only hope that the athlete can eventually overcome their substance abuse issues permanently.
Unfortunately for those who have dealt with substance abuse, their personal problems wind up being very public. This results in increased scrutiny and constant speculation regarding whether or not the athlete has been able to remain clean. For these following 15 athletes, their personal issues reached the point where rehab became necessary, though not all have succeeded or have been able to avoid a relapse.
15 Jon “Bones” Jones
Jones recently tested positive for an illegal substance during an out-of-competition drug test administered by the Nevada Athletic Commission, according to CBSSports. While testing positive had no effect on Jones’ defense of his light-heavyweight UFC title, it did lead him to check into a rehab facility. Though he only stayed at the rehab center for one night, his mother told WBNG News in Binghamton, New York that he planned to continue with the program so that he could avoid any further substance abuse issues, noting that his substance use was just an isolated incident.
14 Vin Baker
Taking a look at Vin Baker’s career season-by-season stats, you can almost see the point in which alcoholism began to consume the 6-foot-11 All-Star. After making four consecutive All-Star teams, Baker’s production dropped precipitously from the 1997-98 season (19.8 PPG, 8 RPG) to the 1998-97 season (13.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG in just 34 games). Baker’s production would continue to decline and he was eventually suspended and ordered into rehab when Jim O’Brien, then the coach of the Boston Celtics, smelled alcohol on Baker during a practice session. Despite going through treatment, Baker was released by the team the following season when he failed to adhere to the conditions of his alcohol treatment program.
13 Ken Caminiti
Caminiti’s downfall is one of the sadder sports stories in recent memory. After a standout career that included an MVP Award in 1996, he was arrested and jailed on several occasions for incidents involving a highly illegal white powder. Despite having checked into a rehabilitation center in Manhattan four years before his death, Caminiti continued to relapse and violate the terms of his probation by testing positive for that same illegal substance. Just five days after appearing before a judge regarding a probation violation, Caminiti passed away at the age of 41 after going into cardiac arrest, according to ESPN.
12 Theo Fleury
One of the more talented players of his generation, Fleury dealt with substance abuse issues throughout his entire playing career. While playing for the New York Rangers, Fleury checked himself into rehab in 2001, later telling USA Today that there was not any specific substance he was abusing, saying, “It was all of them, it was every single one of them that you could put your finger on. Once you get a handle on one thing, then something else creeps up, then once you get that under control then something else creeps up, that's the nature of the disease that people really don't understand. This is a lifelong sentence." Fleury was suspended multiple times for violating the terms of his recovery, with the final suspension in 2003 effectively ending his NHL career.
11 Dennis Rodman
One of the most oft-referenced signs of addiction is a denial that the addiction exists. Dennis Rodman, the self-appointed foreign diplomat to North Korea, checked himself into a rehabilitation center for alcoholism but declared that he was not an alcoholic, instead telling the Associated Press that he sought rehab as a way to “decompress from all the things I was going through. I was trying to get this game going and get everything going in North Korea. It was a lot." He stayed at the rehabilitation center for three weeks and has said that he will go back every six months in order to continue to evaluate himself.
10 Lamar Odom
Following an arrest for DUI, Odom checked himself into rehab to deal with his substance abuse issues, according to People. Multiple reports suggested that Odom’s substance and alcohol use had put a significant strain on his very public marriage to Khloe Kardashian, and the couple was ultimately divorced. Odom’s once-promising career essentially ended with this incident, as the forward attempted a short-lived comeback attempt with the New York Knicks before the 2014-15 season but was waived after failing to show up at workouts or join the club’s Summer League team.
9 Josh Gordon
The talented Cleveland Browns receiver has simply not been able to avoid trouble throughout his career, and Gordon was recently suspended yet again by the NFL for at least a year after testing positive for alcohol. While Gordon claimed this was nothing more than a misunderstanding, he has been in rehab before, spending two weeks at a facility following a 2014 DWI arrest in North Carolina. The talented receiver has already served two suspensions for using banned substances, one being the 10-game ban that kept him out of most of the 2014 season.
8 Dwight 'Doc' Gooden
Gooden enjoyed an incredibly successful career in baseball, but almost everyone agrees that the fireballing right-hander could have been one of the game’s greatest pitchers had it not been for the temptations of substance addiction. Gooden’s time in rehab caused him to miss the first two months of the 1987 season and he was suspended in 1994 and 1995 for testing positive for an illegal substance. Gooden’s substance abuse did not end there, as he has had multiple arrests stemming from substance abuse, ultimately landing him on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab” with Dr. Drew Pinsky in 2011.
7 John Daly
Daly is one of the PGA Tour’s most colorful characters and remains a very popular player, but he has caused the PGA a fair share of headaches over the years. Daly has racked up so many transgressions that his file is 456 pages and includes seven different instances in which he was ordered to attend counseling or rehab for his alcohol-related problems. Daly’s drinking has become so legendary that the alcohol-infused version of the Arnold Palmer (half lemonade and half iced tea) is referred to as a John Daly.
6 Dock Ellis
Ellis is most famous for the psychedelic substance-fueled no-hitter he threw in 1970 (he also walked eight batters during the game), but the Pirates pitcher spent many years after his playing days ended as a illegal substance and alcohol counselor. He was inspired to do so after his own stint in rehab in 1980, spending 40 days in an Arizona rehab center. He had trouble finding assistance after his own stay in rehab, and many of the counselors did not speak from first-hand experience. Ellis filled that void by becoming a coordinator at the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program of the California Institute for Behavioral Medicine, helping those who had been through experiences similar to those Ellis had encountered throughout his life and playing career.
5 Josh Hamilton
Hamilton is an immensely talented ballplayer, but his talents have been frequently overshadowed by a long history of illegal substance and alcohol abuse. His attempts at treatment go as far back as 2001, and he was in and out of professional baseball for many years while attempting to get his life in order. He made a successful comeback in 2008 and enjoyed several years of outstanding production that included an MVP Award in 2010, but his career has again been derailed by substance abuse. His MLB future is currently in limbo, as it will be up to an arbitrator to decide on how to handle Hamilton’s most recent transgression, according to ESPN.
4 Johnny Manziel
After enduring a highly contentious rookie season with the Cleveland Browns that included reports of excessive partying and missed team functions, Manziel checked into a rehabilitation facility and has remained there for more than the standard 28 days. His future with the Browns is unclear, and the team has already signed veteran Josh McCown to a contract and the possibility remains that Manziel is no longer the future at QB in Cleveland. After visiting Manziel in rehab, coach Mike Pettine said that his quarterback's off-field issues were "a deeper-rooted thing than [we] thought."
3 Darryl Strawberry
Like his former teammate Dwight Gooden, Strawberry endured a playing career that was marred by addiction. Though he had a long playing career and had a great deal of success, he never quite lived up to his immense talent and dealt with substance abuse issues throughout his career. He had a string of stints in rehab centers, and his violations of his court-ordered treatment resulted in Strawberry having to serve 11 months in prison, according to CBSNews. Strawberry has been clean and sober for over a decade, and has opened several rehabilitation centers bearing his name with the hopes that he can help others avoid the problems he endured.
2 Miguel Cabrera
The Tigers slugger has had his fair share of issues with alcohol, but it appears that he has put them well behind him. After a much-publicized incident in 2009 in which Cabrera showed up to the ballpark with scratches on his face stemming from an early-morning altercation with his wife, it was discovered that he had a blood-alcohol level of .26 – more than three times the legal limit -- when he was tested by police, according to ESPN. The incident led Cabrera to a rehabilitation stay that lasted three months, but he would be arrested again on suspicion of drunk driving in 2011. Since then, however, Cabrera has found success and sobriety while winning back-to-back MVP Awards. It was reported that after the Tigers clinched the division title in 2012, Cabrera avoided the clubhouse celebration out of a desire to maintain his sobriety.
1 Diego Maradona
The legendary Argentine footballer’s substance abuse caused him massive health problems and forced his family to put him into rehab against his will in 2004. When Maradona checked in, his cardiac capacity was at a minuscule 35 percent, and he had to endure significant withdrawal symptoms while in rehab, according to BBC. His ex-wife believed that his time spent in rehab saved his life, and Maradona has since admitted that his addiction affected his abilities on the pitch, telling Tyc Sports in 2014 that “I gave my opponents a big advantage due to my illness. Do you know the player I could have been if I hadn't taken drugs?"
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