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10 Drug Scandals That Altered Great Careers In Sports

These guys had unlimited potential until their penchant for getting high pulled them down.
by Raul Maningat | Feb 22, 2015
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It was revealed earlier this year that cocaine metabolites were found in Jon Jones’ system prior to his handling of bitter rival Daniel Cormier. Shortly after, Anderson Silva's positive results for steroid use a month before the Nick Diaz fight went public. The two MMA megastars’ reputation as well as the UFC's took a massive hit with the drug issues making the headlines.

However, the Octagon legends’ respective predicaments are pretty light compared to the sports figures who went deep down the dark path as you'll see blow. We mean, below.

Hopefully Bones and the Spider and our other current favorite athletes won’t follow suit. But enough with the intro, let’s talk coke, crack, and PEDs, and the promising careers they drastically altered.


The Cebu native made his name in Philippine basketball as a member of Red Bull in the early 2000s by playing a lot bigger than his 5’9” frame. The feisty point guard had a knack for making the right plays during crunch time, like a laser-focused L.A. Tenorio but with better shooting. That was until 2003. Torion's upside took a wild plunge after failing random drug tests conducted by the PBA.

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He was then exposed as an alleged shabu user, forcing the league's powers that be to hand him a lengthy suspension. After a stint in rehab, he got a second chance and found his way back into the PBA. But Torion’s return didn’t turn out well. In fact, it was as nasty as a Kardashian family reunion. Aside from being a diminished talent, Jimwell got heckled mercilessly. Opposing fans would scream, “ADIK, ADIK!” whenever he held the ball, especially when he was shooting free throws. It just was never the same for the once-promising guard.


The great Isiah Thomas once said that the only point guard he was afraid to play against was Michael Ray Richardson. The 1978 fourth overall draft pick and four-time all-star was a complete player at his position. Passing, scoring, defending, you name it, he had it on lock. In just his sophomore season, he accomplished a rare feat as he led the NBA both in assists and steals. He was undoubtedly a franchise player, and he would further prove this when he led the New Jersey Nets to an upset of the defending champion Philadelphia 76ers in the 1984 playoffs.

With the talent he had, he should be mentioned in the same breath as Magic Johnson and Zeke, just look at his highlight reel:

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Unfortunately, drugs were too much of a thing in his life. Just like what annoying people is to Kris Aquino.

Striking out thrice under Commissioner David Stern’s watch, Michael Ray was banned in the league for life by 1986. The decision could’ve been overturned but he failed two more tests and that was it.

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Tapia is a legendary boxer who won five world titles. It sounds like he led quite a disciplined life or he would not have been as successful a prizefighter, right? Nah, he absolutely didn’t. As a hot young prospect in 1990, he was suspended for four years after testing positive numerous times for cocaine. He would be pronounced clinically dead five times (holy hell, what is this guy made of?) after overdosing to coke. We’re guessing that’s a world record.

During one of those scary incidents, his brother-in-law and nephew were fatally injured in a car accident on their way to visiting Johnny in the hospital. That’s a burden that even Thor of Asgard would have a hard time carrying. Tapia undeniably had a Hall of Fame career but there’s no telling how much greater he could’ve been if cocaine never became his mistress. On March 7, 2012, Johnny Tapia was found dead at 45. No traces of drugs were found.

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Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) used to be so rampant in Major League Baseball that anybody who was playing fantastic had been accused of juicing. Most of the biggest baseball heroes of the past 20 years, in some shape or form, have admitted to using banned substances to hike up their play. Steroids were, simply put, the spinach to these bat-swinging Popeyes.

High-profile figures like Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds are just some of baseball’s superstars that got their careers marred due to PED use. Despite the records they’ve set, the titles they’ve won, and the rest of their lofty credentials, it would be very hard for them to be voted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, since it’s likely that every single one of their achievements was a product of cheating. The damage the scandal caused to the MLB has been irreparable to some, and to others it will take a long long time for them to become believers once again.

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"Sex, Drugs and the NFL." That’s the mantra of former Dallas Cowboys star Irvin in the '90s. There’s only one story you need to know to be convinced why the great wide receiver deserves a spot on this list. In March 1996, the police busted him for possession of illegal substance. The authorities found Irvin lying on the floor in a hotel suite, his 6’2”, 207-pound body covered in cocaine.

But wait, there’s more. While he was on his back frosted with coke, a multitude of strippers were all over him doing what you think they’re doing. For all his mishaps, Michael “The Playmaker” Irvin still managed to make it to the NFL Hall of Fame. But what he failed to do was escape the murky lifestyle. After his playing days were over and long into his retirement, Irvin got arrested multiple times, with most of the charges being somehow linked to drug use.  

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Arguments can be made that USA’s 10-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis is the Michael Jordan of track and field. That’s why when a Canadian hulk emerged in the late '80s and threatened Lewis’s reign in the 100m dash, eyebrows were raised, none more so than the American superstar's.

In 1987, Canada’s Ben Johnson had already beaten Lewis multiple times and had set the world record for the 100m race when his overly competitive rival started calling him out for doping. There wasn’t much known about PEDs back then, but Johnson’s meteoric rise and Lewis’ rants pushed for more stringent testing.

Ben once again dominated at the 1988 Seoul Olymipic Games, but this time he would get caught. He tested positive for a steroid called stanozolol. He was stripped of his gold medal and was further investigated upon, leading to his world record being rescinded. Lewis’ allegations have been proven true. It was perhaps Floyd Mayweather's peg for accusing Manny of PEDs usage.

Here's Johnson and Lewis's "record-setting" sprint in 1987:

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A self-confessed cokehead and pothead, Mike Tyson blew away tens of millions of dollars on a whim. A myriad of terrible vices caused him to lose his fortunes, two of which were the great white powder and the magical leaves. Iron Mike was such a slave to these drugs that he would do blow and a pot hit shortly before bouts.

Many of the times he did it, he either performed poorly or became as aggressive as a rabid dog, making him vulnerable to the smart boxer. Bizarre and amazing at the same time, he found a way around the testing using a fake penis that contained clean urine.

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In his own words, cleaning up his act was a daily struggle—and not having been able to do so while at the peak of his powers altered what could've been a more legendary run. 

We know you've seen his knockouts, but his training videos are also quite something else:



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At the break of the millennium, there was no bigger track and field female star than Marion Jones. She was the Usain Bolt of her time but with a pretty face and gorgeous figure that would’ve been surely featured in ESPN’s The Magazine's "Body" issue if it had already existed. As America’s golden girl, her façade showed that she was perfect. All she did was win on the track, which she did as charmingly as possible.

But the goody-two shoe image was quickly decimated by an announcement she made in 2007. Jones publicly apologized for using performance enhancing drugs during competition and lying to a federal jury about it. As a result, she was forced to relinquish the five medals she won in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, three of which were gold. She also served six months in jail for her wrongdoings. Tragic, truly tragic.

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After winning a bout against late-stage testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times in a row in as many years. He became a beacon of hope and turned into a brand that represented everything that’s great about the human spirit. But during those times, doping allegations never stopped hounding him. His supporters dismissed their idol’s accusers as envious skeptics.

In 2012, Team Armstrong’s world crumbled. The evidence against the American cyclist appeared to be too strong to be eluded. Lance was stripped of all his Tour de France wins. A year later, probably convinced by his conscience, Armstrong admitted on worldwide TV to Oprah Winfrey that he indeed was a fraud.

In his own admission, he never won a yellow jersey without taking PEDs. Just imagine how many of those whom his story inspired got their hearts broken. From a protagonist, Armstrong instantly transformed into a villainous, deceitful character, the sports equivalent of Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung or Tekken’s Heihachi.

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