Professional footballers are elite athletes. At the highest level, players are required to be incredibly fit. Strict dietary requirements and fitness regimes, even during the off-season, are now common place and long gone are the days of players having a few pints and a cigarette after a stressful match. That is why, in the modern game, it is so scandalous for a player to be spotted drinking heavily or smoking. In truth it is kind of ridiculous that people expect athletes to be robots and think they're less committed just because they occasionally engage in habits so many do in society. Athletes are always heavily scrutinized but there are certain times when the criticism is warranted. There comes a certain point when players have to be held accountable for engaging in acts that any citizen would be subject to consequences, be it in our social surroundings, or the law.
Even then, however, there is a cardinal sin greater than that; the failed drug test. Professional footballers are required to take semi-regular 'random' drugs tests, particularly at a high level, with some international players being tested almost weekly. Failure in one of these tests or a refusal to take the test can see a hefty ban from the game and often a sacking by one's employers.
There are certain types of drugs that will result in failure of a drugs test. Social or recreational drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine all show up on the tests, as do performance-enhancing drugs like THG, nandrolone and drostanolone. Whilst these two categories of drugs are used for entirely different purposes, both tend to result in equally hefty fines and punishments. Here are the top 10 footballers who have been caught doing drugs. This list will include both the failure for tests of recreational drugs and performance enhancing drugs.
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10 Fernando Couto
Fernando Couto is a widely-respected central defender who won doubles in Portugal, Spain and Italy in a 21-year career which saw him turn out for the likes of Porto, Parma and Barcelona. He represented his country, Portugal, at four major tournaments, amassing over a century of caps and retired in 2010 becoming Director of Football for Braga and currently the clubs assistant manager. It all sounds very decent, and it is, if it weren't for one blotch to his record. He failed a drug test in 2001 while at Lazio, after tests showed the steroid nandrolone was present in his urine sample. Couto denied the allegations but a 'B' test confirmed them, and he served 4 months of a 9 month ban, and was fined $60,000.
9 Kolo Toure
Former Arsenal, Manchester City and current Liverpool defender Kolo Toure failed a drugs test in 2011, becoming the first Premier League player to do so in seven years. Unlike some of the others on this list, Toure's case was far from cut and dry. The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) found a specified substance in Toure's urine sample which the Ivorian claimed was the result of him taking one of his wife's diet pills. The panel decided Toure was telling the truth, and that the substance had not been used to cover up the use of other substances, but still handed him a 6-month ban.
8 Jake Livermore
The most recent case, coming in just the last week, is that of Hull City midfielder Jake Livermore. The former Spurs man impressed in his debut season at the KC Stadium, on loan from Tottenham, but has failed to live up to his extortionate £8 million price tag. His poor season was compounded after he failed a drug test before Hull's game against Crystal Palace. The test revealed Livermore had taken cocaine and he was subsequently suspended by both Hull City and the FA. An official verdict on Livermore's ban and whether the Tigers sack him or stick by him has yet to be made.
7 Mark Bosnich
Former Manchester United, Aston Villa and Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Bosnich has had a career marred by controversy in large parts. From Nazi salutes to reckless driving, it's never been plain-sailing with the Australian. Arguably however, his lowest moment came in 2003 when he failed a drug test, testing positive for cocaine. Chelsea immediately terminated his $100,000 a week contract. Bosnich's addiction became more serious, as he was taking 10g of cocaine a day, costing him over $5,000 a week and he became a recluse, retiring at just 31. Bosnich eventually got clean and returned to football in his homeland five years later.
6 Jaap Stam
Jaap Stam left Manchester United under rather acrimonious circumstances in 2001, and weeks later he had failed a drugs test. Strong, quick and technically very good, Stam was one of the most complete defenders of his generation. He won trophies at PSV, Manchester United, Lazio, AC Milan and Ajax, as well as playing 67 times for the Netherlands. Stam protests his innocence to this day and appealed the ruling twice, but was banned for five months in 2002 after nandrolone was found in his urine sample. The ban was eventually reduced to four months and Stam continued to have an impressive career.
5 Garry O'Connor
Once the golden boy of Scottish football, Garry O'Connor had broken into the national team at 18 and moved to Lokomotiv Moscow at 23. A talented yet not prolific striker, his career came tumbling down in 2009 after he failed a drug test whilst playing at Premier League side Birmingham City. O'Connor later revealed the severity of his situation, as he blew his entire £4 million career earnings and now lives in a council house. Now 32 and playing for minnows Selkirk FC in the fifth tier of Scottish football, he seems to still be struggling with addiction. He was handed 200 hours community service when found in possession of cocaine in 2014 and crashed his Mercedes earlier this year.
4 Edgar Davids
An exceptionally talented midfield player, Edgar Davids was tough, tireless and technically tremendous. In his prime, he was a midfield dynamo, capable of breaking up play and creating chances at a whim. His most successful spells came at Ajax and Juventus, winning three Eredivisie, three Serie A titles and one Champions League trophy, whilst he also made 74 appearances for the Netherlands. In 2001, Davids tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. Having failed a second drug test, it was possible Davids could face a two year ban, but ultimately got away with only four months on the sidelines. He later played for Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham, Ajax, Crystal Palace and Barnet, before retiring just last year.
3 Adrian Mutu
Adrian Mutu's situation at Chelsea is one of the messiest in modern footballing history. Having joined the club as one of the most highly-rated forwards in Europe, he left disgraced after a number of fall-outs with Jose Mourinho, a failed drug test, contract termination and a lawsuit made against. He failed the test after just 27 games for the club, with his sample revealing he had taken cocaine. He received a seven-month ban from football and an ongoing legal battle. Mutu re-joined Juventus before joining Fiorentina, where he failed a second drug test, this time for doping. He was given a nine month ban and sacked by the club. Since then, Mutu has played for Cesena, Ajaccio and Petrolul, and hasn't played since 2014. He is Romania's joint all-time top scorer.
2 Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola's drawn-out failed drug test and subsequent clearing and re-emerging is perhaps the most complicated incident involving a footballer and drugs. Now renowned as one of Europe's best managers from his time at Barcelona and now Bayern Munich, Guardiola was also a fine player, as he was classy on the ball, with great vision and an excellent reading of the game. In 2011 though, Guardiola, like Davids, Stam and Couto, failed a drug test due to the presence of nandrolene in his sample. The Spaniard was indignant, and fought his case for six long years before he was cleared in 2007, only for allegations to resurface a year later. In 2009, he won his case once more.
1 Diego Maradona
The most high-profile footballer to have failed a drug test, is possibly the most high profile footballer of all time. El Diego, as he was sometimes known, is arguably the greatest talent the game has ever seen. A combination of speed, balance, grace, skill and vision made him virtually unplayable when he was on-song. However, in a career which should be noted for pure genius, like so many geniuses, there was a touch of madness and an occasional dark side to Argentina's golden boy.
Maradona has had consistent drug and weight problems throughout his life, the first coming in 1991 when he was given a 15-month ban after failing a drug test for cocaine. At 34, he was still Argentina's greatest hope at the 1994 World Cup and he scored against Greece in the group stages. Maradona appeared to be on something during his goal celebration and after a 'random' drugs test, he tested positive for the stimulant ephedrine and sent home disgraced. He did not overcome his cocaine addiction until 2005.
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