There’s nothing that quite beats the high of scoring a goal or standing at the top of a podium as your national anthem rings around a stadium. The vast majority of us never get to experience that, while those that do find it very difficult to replace such a buzz when the curtain draws close on their career.
Over the years many athletes have gone on to struggle with addiction following their retirement, taking up drugs, gambling, and alcohol to try and find the same sort of hit they’d get from sporting success. It’s seen many die before their time, as well as struggling with financial and relationship problems.
Alcohol has long been one of the contributing factors to that, but who are the stars across the world that have particularly struggled?
1. Tony Adams
Tony Adams was one of the very finest English footballers and he’s become the type of player you just don’t see anymore. He was not only a monumental presence on the pitch but the ultimate leader. The only problem was, to deal with such pressures he often turned to the bottle.
According to UKAT, Adams had a 12-year battle with alcohol abuse and visited rehab a number of times to get his life back on track. Once part of Arsenal’s Tuesday Club, a regular drinking club among the players, he turned his back on it to get sober.
He’s now over 25 years sober and is a brilliant example of how people can turn their lives around when the cruel nature of addiction kicks in.
2. James Hunt
James Hunt lit up the world of Formula 1 and fully immersed himself in the champagne lifestyle that came with it. He was known as the ultimate party boy that lived life in the fast lane both on the track and off it.
His rivalry with Niki Lauda was one of the most exciting in the sport’s history, as told in the movie Rush, but Hunt was a candle that burned bright and burnt out, dying aged just 45 from a heart attack.
3. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley’s issues with alcohol stretched so far that he once played a game drunk. He’s spoken openly about his troubles with alcohol, which he has suffered from both during his career and during his retirement. While he hasn’t stopped drinking, Barkley has tried to make substantial lifestyle changes, limiting his drinking to weekends.
4. Ricky Hatton
Ricky Hatton’s relationship with a pint of Guinness followed him throughout his career. Between fights, he would heap on the pounds and be regularly photographed in pubs near to his home in Manchester.
That intensified after his retirement and as his life began to crumble he checked into rehab to get his life back on track.
While Hatton still enjoys a drink, he’s cut that down and is now back in shape and training boxers as well as potentially looking to get back in the ring again for exhibition bouts.
5. Sugar Ray Leonard
Sticking with boxing, legendary fighter Sugar Ray Leonard also struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. The North Carolina native is regarded as one of the greatest of all time, winning world championships in five different weight classes, as well as Olympic Gold in 1976.
He’s spoken regularly about how his career led to alcoholism and cocaine abuse, as he looked to fill the void away from the sport, seeking the highs he got from being in the ring.
He credits his wife and business managers for getting through his addiction and has admitted that talking about his problems and getting help has made his life much better. He’s a motivational speaker today and often talks about his troubles with alcohol and drug abuse.
6. Boris Becker
Boris Becker is currently in jail over hiding around £2.5million of assets during his bankruptcy filing and it’s not the only trouble he’s had to deal with across his life. Becker was thrust into the spotlight as a youngster, winning Wimbledon aged just 17.
He admitted he struggled to cope with the pressure and ahead of the 1990 Wimbledon final, went into the match having consumed whisky, beer, and prescription drugs. He became hooked on such substances to get through the latter stages of his career, and once claimed he drank whisky to “strengthen the effects of the tablets. I wanted to be right back there on top, to win again, and that was to be had at any price.”
7. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is one of the most recognizable names in basketball but he didn’t have the end to his career he’d perhaps wanted having battled with alcohol and gambling problems in his mid-30s as his career began to wind down.
He left the NBA to go and play in Turkey but he had to break from his basketball to look after his life. The press regularly reported about his battle with alcohol with writers claiming he will either “drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away”.
8. George Best
George Best was one of the most talented footballers of all time and could have been so much more if it wasn’t for the booze. The Northern Irish legend passed away after a long battle with alcohol addiction back in 2005, aged just 59 and he tried and failed many times to get clean.
During his career he would often go missing and skip training, opting for the party lifestyle instead and that followed him around. He won the European Cup and two league titles with Manchester United, but it could have been so much more.
He left the club at a young age though, spending much of the rest of his career in the USA, where his problems continued and he was passed around from club to club because they couldn’t cope with his lifestyle.
It’s one of the most tragic tales of the effect alcohol can not only have on an athlete’s life, but how it can ultimately cost lives too.