Famous Athletes Who Doped To Win

Some say it’s the fault of fans. We impose such lofty expectations on athletes that sometimes, they crack under pressure. Others think it’s the media, the sports commentators who’ve looked the other way for so long. Or it could be the athletes, who want desperately to keep an illusion of effortless success alive. Either way, doping has become commonplace in modern-day sports. It’s not like this everywhere. When someone wins at their favourite online casino game, it’s always fair and square. But with physical sports, there’s more wiggle room. Some athletes throughout history have looked for a shortcut to glory. Here are a few of the most famous ones.

1. Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova came to the United States from Russia and immediately began pursuing her dream of becoming a tennis star. She succeeded, and spent 11 consecutive years as the highest paid female athlete on the planet. But in 2016, Sharapova tested positive for a recently banned drug at the Australian Open. She’d been taking meldonium, for ten years for health reasons and didn’t know it was banned. Sharapova was banned from competitive tennis for ten years. Later, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced her ban. Sharapova was using the drug, but not to get a competitive advantage. Her ban was reduced from two years to 15 months and she was allowed to return to tennis in April 2017.

2. Lance Armstrong

For years, champion cyclist Lance Armstrong denied doping with performance-enhancing drugs during competition. Those years of drug use caught up with Armstrong in 2013, when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released more than 1,000 pages of evidence that Armstrong and his teammates had been doping. He later admitted to using EPO, Testosterone, Cortisone, human growth hormone, and illegal blood transfusions in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Armstrong had to return his seven Tour de France titles and his Olympic bronze medal.

3. Marion Jones

The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) spent years supplying anabolic steroids to professional athletes, including track and field Olympian Marion Jones. Before her fall, Jones was an American superstar. She won five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Jones was first accused of doping in high school, in 1990, when she missed a random drug test. She was banned from track and field for four years, though her lawyer was able to overturn the ban. Jones was caught up in the BALCO scandal after her 2000 Olympic wins, when her then-husband, C.J. Hunter, tested positive for steroids. In October of 2007, Jones finally admitted she lied to federal agents about doping. She handed over her Olympic medals and retired from the sport. But Jones still claims she thought the drugs were flaxseed oil, not steroids, while she was taking them.

4. Bill Romanowski

Bill Romanowski played for the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, and Oakland Raiders between 1988 and his retirement in 2003. He had a long career as one of the "dirtiest players" in professional team sports history. Like Marion Jones, Romanowski was caught up in the BALCO scandal. He and his wife were first investigated for prescription drug fraud, but those charges were later dropped. After his retirement, Romanowski admitted he’d used steroids and human growth hormone from BALCO. According to US government records, he used an anabolic steroid called "The Clear" and a synthetic testosterone ointment called "The Cream." Protest banner against doping at the Tour de France 2006. Source: Wikimedia

5. Shane Warne

The cricket World Cup was rocked in 2003 when Australian star Shane Warne was sent home. He’d tested positive for diuretics, which can be used to mask other drugs. Warne said he didn’t know the drug he was taking contained a banned substance. After his positive test, Warne was banned from cricket for a year, though he was allowed to play in charity games. He returned to cricket in 2004 and retired from all formats of cricket in 2013.

6. Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin is still in the game, but his world-class sprinting career has been spotted with doping suspicions, accusations, and bans. In 2001, Gatlin was banned from international competition for two years. He tested positive for amphetamines. The result that was later appealed and the ban overturned due to Gatlin’s ADHD diagnosis. But Gatlin’s doping troubles weren’t over. He was banned for eight years in 2006 when he failed another doping test. That ban was reduced, and Gatlin returned to the sport in 2010 with a tour of Estonia and Finland.

7. Sammy Sosa

At the height of the "steroid era," baseball player Sammy Sosa seemed unstoppable. But in 2009, the New York Times reported that Sosa was among 104 players who’d tested positive for doping in a 2003 MLB survey. These results were supposed to stay anonymous, as the goal was to determine if random drug testing in the MLB was necessary.  After his positive test, but before the world knew he’d been doping, Sosa testified before the U.S. Congress in 2005. In those days, he denied any wrongdoing, saying, "To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs." He still denies having doped. Interested in learning more about celebrities like these? You may also like this article about celebrities with gambling fever.

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