19 Most Notorious Non-PED Substance Abusers in Sports History
Note to bros: If you were hoping to find guys and gals like Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, and Marion Jones on this list, you’re reading the wrong BroBible list. That’s the won’t-ever-get-written, 500-plus-person slideshow about all the cheaters in the history of sports who decided to ’roid up, causing them to be engulfed in fits of rage at their trophy wives and lie to Congress.
This list, on the other hand, is about sportsmen (and a few women) throughout the decades that have actually been on drugs while playing, practicing, or promoting their respective sport. When you think about it, that’s quite an athletic feat in and of itself. Whether it be pot, booger sugar, or even Rick James’ drug of choice, crack, these professional athletes — many of whom are elite-level players — put the occasional bong-ripping, bush league bros to shame. Just imagine dropping acid, and then going out and pitching a no-hitter (this actually happened).
So we’ve ranked the top 20 most notorious drug users in sports history based on athletic ability, drugs taken, and other characteristics that make the BroBible list the only one you should ever have to read.
1. Golf: Tiger Woods – Sex
Do you remember where you were when you first read the reports of Tiger Woods alleged sexcapades? It was the money-shot heard round the sports world and pretty much ruined the guy’s image for a few years (as well as his marriage to stunner Elin Nordegren). It turned out he was addicted to sex, which some people crave just like cocaine or alcohol, hence the reason why we included it on our list. But Woods was the best of the best in golf — a sport that had screamed “Young Republican” and “Downton Abbey” during the same orgasm and had largely been immune to scandal in previous years (save for list-mate John Daly; see below). And then Tiger got back to doing what Tiger does best (winning); nabbed himself downhill skiing hottie, Lindsey Vonn; and all was righted in the world. Except the image in our head of Tiger Woods doing that first-pump thing after doing three chicks at the same time.
2. Baseball: Josh Hamilton – Crack, Alcohol
We have to give Josh Hamilton credit for basically being the main character in A Million Little Pieces and turning his life almost 360-degrees. He faced his demons, battled off a cocktail of terrible things he was doing to himself, and burst back into the spotlight as one of the best hitters in the game of baseball. In 1999, he was the No. 1 draft pick in baseball. By 2001, he had started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. He would be suspended for drugs in 2003 and would hit rock bottom in 2005 — going on a major crack binge. Playing enough games sober, he became an actual baseball rookie in 2007, and has been a superstar ever since. He did have an alcohol-related relapse in 2012, but seems to be back on the straight and narrow. Unlike the singer’s mom in that Sublime song “What I Got,” it appears that Hamilton has gotten rid of the bottle and the rock.
3. Football: Todd Marinovich – Alcohol, Mushrooms, Cocaine, LSD, Marijuana, Ecstasy, Heroin
Marinovich “wins” this list, in terms of the sheer amount of drugs he took — but only grabs the No. 3 spot, because he never really lived up to the hype, athletically. A highly touted quarterback prospect, Marinovich spent the better part of two seasons with the then Los Angeles Raiders. Selected No. 24 in the first round of the 1991 NFL draft — ahead of some other guy named Brett Favre — Marinovich would go on to be a massive disappointment, first gaining then quickly losing the starting role in 1992. Part of that was his hunger for drugs and drink. All along, he had been abusing stuff like alcohol, cocaine, LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy, heroin, and marijuana — and the league tested him, for a time, to no avail. However, he started failing tests around the time he lost his starting position; and by 1993, his career was in the shitter. Despite the few ups and many downs, Marinovich is still alive. For those of you who have 3-4 hours to kill, we’d suggest giving this extensive, award-winning story on Marinovich from Esquire a whirl. Wow.
4. Basketball: Vin Baker – Alcohol
Baker, like list-mate Josh Hamilton, is lucky to be alive — and is on this list only because of his former, way-more-evil self: The one that was an alcoholic, who led a “double life,” as he put it. Drafted in the first round in 1993, Baker was a highly talented basketball prospect, who most notably played for the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle SuperSonics. By 2003-04, during a stint with the Boston Celtics, he was cut for abusing alcohol (he showed up to practice smelling of alcohol). Out of basketball, in 2007, he was arrested for drunken driving. But in recent years, long since removed from the game and sober, he’s turned his life around, having become a preacher and teaching kids about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
5. Tennis: Andre Agassi – Crystal Meth
Andre Agassi is one of the few male tennis pros to have ever completed the men’s singles Grand Slam (only six others have done it). Back in 1997, though, his talent was slipping, and he had dropped well below the 100 mark in the rankings. That same year, Agassi failed a drug test, but it was later thrown out, because the star claimed he was unknowingly dosed. That’s how big of a deal this guy was. And that’s where the truth ends: It came to light in his 2009 autobiography, that he had knowingly taken the drug crystal meth — and that the failed drug test should’ve probably ended his career. Talking about the drug in his book, he claimed he would snort it and go on cleaning binges. We wonder if wife Steffi Graf grabbed a Swiffer and joined in. Lord knows, it’s hard to get a guy to clean anything.
6. Baseball: Dock Ellis – Acid
A major league pitcher in the 1960s and ’70s, who played for five different ball clubs, Ellis is best known for his stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he was a starting pitcher. In 1970, Ellis was called upon to start and claims that he threw a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. Can you even imagine that? In recent years, folk singer Todd Snider wrote and recorded a song honoring the feat. And for all of you in-depth investigative-report lovers, check out this fantastic piece, too.
7. Soccer: Diego Maradona – Cocaine (Alive)
Diego Maradona, an Argentine soccer star — who is probably better known in his home country than the current Pope — gets on this list for his sheer talent and long-running battle with cocaine addiction. At the peak of his fame playing for Italian club Napoli, he was hooked on the white stuff — and at one point, was accused of trying to smuggle loads of it into an Italian airport. He would later fail a drug test in Italy in 1991; and again in 1994, barring him from that year’s World Cup play. These days, he’s just an old, crazy dude — who happens to not be in that bad shape.
8. Football: Dexter Manley – Cocaine
Dexter Manley, nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” was a two-time Super Bowl winning defensive end — who basically threw away a highly successful career all in the name of the rock (he sold one of his SB rings for drug money). Playing for a trio of teams, including the Washington Redskins, he failed four substance abuse tests and found himself gone for good. In recent years, there’s been a resurgence in interest in him, after he sued the NFL for causing brain damage. Also, football card collectors have come to know his 1990 Pro Set Final Edition issue as a modern-day Holy Grail: Initially, it mentioned Manley’s substance abuse on the card back — and then on later editions, it was wiped clean. If you can find one on eBay, it could cost you anywhere from $200-$500, depending on its condition. That’s some expensive shit! (Talking about the card, not the drugs, bro.)
9. Baseball: Tim “Rock” Raines – Cocaine
Speed-demon Tim Raines, who put together a hall-of-fame-worthy career in the major leagues, was known for his base-stealing, RBI-hitting, run-producing, and, er, drug-taking. After starting his career off with spitfire quickness — from 1977 to 1981, he was caught stealing just once — by ’82, his numbers began to dip, most likely due to his increased drug use. He reportedly spent $40,000 on the white stuff that year alone! (Interesting, because we would’ve assumed a speedy guy doing a speedy drug would lead to more speed.) Despite the obvious theories about his nickname “rock,” he actually got it because of his strong physique, not his love of the non-powder version of cocaine. He did, however, admit to sliding headfirst in order to protect his vials of cocaine. Hear that? That’s the sound of his chances to get elected to the Hall sliding away.
10. Baseball: Steve Howe – Drugs, Alcohol
In 2006, former relief pitcher Steve Howe, who spent most of his career with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, was killed in a car accident at the age of 48. That was the tragic end of what would go down as one of the most depressing downward spirals of a career in baseball history. The former National League rookie of the year’s poisons of choice were cocaine and alcohol. He sat out the entire 1984 season due to drug suspension — and would be suspended six other times. Check out this piece on his struggles that was written 20 years before his death. We can imagine some of you bros that are reading this aren’t even as old as Howe’s long-running addiction was. Yikes.
11. Golf: John Daly – Alcohol
Golf is one of those games that sort of goes hand-in-hand with a cigar and a snifter of brown alcohol. And multi-major-winner John Daly makes frat-boy bros who get wasted on 18-hole binges look like little girls in pink tutus. Daly struggled mightily — sometimes getting the DTs on the course — with alcohol throughout his ups-and-downs career. In recent years, he’s also mocked his highly marinated self, launching his own alco-bev line in 2012. He’s sober, as far as we know. In our opinion, he suffers from a way worse addiction these days — one that makes him wear ridiculous clothing.
12. Baseball: Bill “Spaceman” Lee – Marijuana
One of the greatest pot folk heroes of the 1960s and ’70s, Bill “Spaceman” Lee is best known for his time playing for the Boston Red Sox — and for evangelizing the use of marijuana in zany things like pancakes, in order to “enhance” his performance as a baseball player. He was also highly quotable. You’ve got to give the guy some credit; he never pulled a Dock Ellis (see above), but he did end his career with a 3.62 ERA and 119 wins. Great tongue-in-cheek rock icon, Warren Zevon (he of “Werewolves of London”) even honored Lee with an ode. Those must’ve been some decent nugs!
13. Football: Lawrence Taylor – Cocaine
When Bountygate happened a few years ago, Lawrence Taylor was probably laughing his ass off somewhere. The monstrous LT, as he was known, was the pride of the New York Giants’ faithful throughout the ’80s and ’90s; and claims he used to get paid to mess people up on the field. But it’s what started happening his rookie year that really messed his future self up. Much later in life, he admitted to using cocaine as a first-year player — and soon graduated to crack. He would be in a huddle thinking about smoking the rock instead of playing the game. That’s pretty terrible. Things have gotten a lot dicier for Taylor in recent years; among other things, he’s now a registered sex offender (for soliciting an underage hooker). That, and the Giants have hit rock bottom, too.
14. Basketball: Roy Tarpley – Alcohol, Cocaine
The seventh pick in the 1986 NBA draft, Tarpley was best known for his time with the Dallas Mavericks, where he would end up winning a coveted Sixth Man Award. But at the time of his drafting, he was also a cocaine addict, whose issues were only exacerbated by the immediate money and fame brought on by the NBA. The continued drug and alcohol abuse eventually caught up with him, getting him suspended in 1989. He was reinstated in 1994, but was later banned for good in 1995 for abusing alcohol again.
15. Hockey: Derek Boogaard – Pain Pills, Alcohol
Boogaard, a professional hockey player who split his career between the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers, was one of the league’s preeminent “enforcers” — i.e. guys like the Hanson Brothers, who excel at beating the living crapola out of everybody in their path (see Bob Probert below). As a result of his rough and tumble ways, Boogaard also struggled with an addiction to prescription pain pills, brought on initially by an aching back, during the 2008-09 season. The addiction flew way out of control, Boogaard started literally ingesting handfuls of pills, and just three short years later, Boogaard was dead of an accidental overdose of pain pills and alcohol. His addiction shined a spotlight on the ill effects of degenerative brain disease — or CTE — which in part, helped spawn stricter helmet-to-helmet rules in the NFL.
16. Soccer: George Best – Alcohol
One of the greatest, most talented pro soccer players of all time, George Best, who is known for his play in the 1960s-70s on Manchester United, had one of the worst addictions to alcohol ever seen in sports history. His constant saucing got him booted off his club in 1974 at just 26 years old. Soccer great Pele once hailed Best as “the greatest [soccer player] in the world.” Somewhat ironically, at least for this list’s sake, Pele’s now doing Subway ads with list-maker Michael Phelps. And Best is long dead, having succumbed to his addiction and its ill effects back in 2005. This is the only known scenario where best is actually worst.
17. Pro Wrestling: Andre the Giant – Alcohol
Known by his stage name, “Andre the Giant,” Andre Rene Roussimoff will go down in history as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time (he also had one of the greatest bit-parts in acting history in The Princess Bride). It also turns out that the bear of an individual was a monster alcoholic. While we can’t vouch for ATG being hammered during a live match, this thorough history of his unbelievable drinking antics — he once racked up a $40,000 bar bill! — should clear up any questions you have about the, shall we say, size of his addiction.
18. Hockey: Bob Probert – Alcohol, Cocaine
Another guy that died way too young, former Detroit Red Wings enforcer Probert, like list-mate Derek Boogaard, was a major bully during the ’80s and early ’90s. Unfortunately, repeated blows to the head, in part, led to a degenerative brain disease (discovered after his death); and as wrote in his posthumously published autobiography, heavy alcohol and cocaine use (he was famously caught trying to smuggle coke across the border in his underpants). Imagine getting your ass kicked by an angry guy, who has razors for feet, and could also be boozed/coked up? No, we can’t either.
19. Tennis: Martina Hingis – Cocaine
All bros remember Martina Hingis for her nubile looks and short-short tennis skirts — not to mention her winning career. But she will likely have an asterisk next to her name in the annals of tennis history. She quit the sport abruptly in 2007, after failing a drug test at Wimbledon. The culprit? C-c-c-c-c-cocaine! She claimed “100 percent” innocence — but booger sugar don’t lie. Then the (ahem) hinges came off, as it turned out she was also a serial cheater … maritally speaking, that is. He allegedly got his ass kicked, too. Love-love hurts.