I just don’t get athletes and drugs. They have it all yet so many waste their time, money and sometimes their life to get high. I don’t even get all the drinking and driving charges you see pro athletes get. If I had their money, I would be glad to pay a driver to haul me around if I felt the urge to go drinking. This article gives my take on why there is a drug problem in pro sports.
First athletes should be conscious of the fact that they are role models. Now as a kid I never did anything I heard of a pro athlete do. But there are a lot of kids who do try to emulate their favorite player. In particular if the child has no positive male role model in his life.
I think the biggest reason some pro athletes do illegal drugs is the word no. Nobody has ever used it to them. From High School or even earlier, athletes are coddled by parents, coaches and school administration. Some athletes come from poor families or ones without that positive male role model I was talking about. Seen as a meal ticket they are spoiled and turned loose to do as they will. If they do get into minor legal trouble it is often covered up or they are given a light slap on the wrist.
Then when they do get into pro sports they are suddenly rich. Most people in their early 20’s are bad at managing their money, I sure was. Imagine a young man suddenly filthy rich. They immediately have all kinds of people hanging around them. They think these are their friends, but when the money runs out the “friends” are then soon gone.
In his autobiography “Out of Control” Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson of the Dallas Cowboys, told of suddenly being rich and the problems it caused. He said the most beautiful women he had ever seen flocked around him, and most wanted cocaine. He talked of the parties and drugs and the fast lifestyle. He also told of cocaine taking over his life. He ruined his body and his NFL career to feed that habit. He also went to prison due to crimes he did while high. In my opinion if Thomas Henderson had not been on drugs, he would be considered the best NFL linebacker of all time. He later turned his life around and won a lottery and got rich again. I think his book should be required reading for any rookie in any sport.
Another reason for the problem is that is that the teams themselves pass out drugs to players. In the NFL in particular, without pain killers there would be no playing. Brett Farve and others have become addicted to them. It’s not a huge stretch from high level pain pills to illegal street drugs.
The pro athlete drug problem can also be blamed to some degree on the fact that they ARE young. Young men don’t develop the “I am in danger” part of the brain until their mid 20s. So young men in all walks of life take more risks because it never dawns on them something can happen. I myself did stupid stuff in fast cars at 19 that would make me get out, the car, sit down and shake with fear now. This is a big reason young men make good soldiers, they don’t expect to get killed so they do what needs to be done.
Len Bias of the Boston Celtics really brought the pro sports drug problem out into the open. Don’t know who he was? He was a very promising basketball player from the University of Maryland. He was the 2nd overall NBA draft pick in 1986 by the Boston Celtics. Less than 2 days later he was dead of a cocaine overdose induced heart problem. His mother came to my high school to speak against drugs a couple of years later.
Also in 1986 Don Rogers a promising defensive back with the Cleveland Browns, died of a drug overdose. Marty Schottenheimer head coach of the San Diego Chargers (then coach of the Browns) recently said it was the worst moment of his career as a coach.
Ken Caminiti a former MVP in Major League Baseball died in 2004 of a drug overdose. Mark Tuinei a 15 year NFL player died of an overdose in his car in 1999. These young athletes need to understand, they risk more than jail time, or spending all their money, they can easily die from drug abuse.