Sports competitions are supposed to be acted out on a fair, level playing field. Some athletes naturally perform better than others, due to increased skill or natural talent. Others, however, skew their chances of superhuman performance by taking performance-altering substances. Anabolic steroids, amphetamines, and other illegal substances are often ingested by athletes prior to competition in order to increase their likelihood of coming out on top. Sporting organizations often sanction these athletes, even removing their accolades. A select few will get away with it, saying they took something illegal inadvertently or without their knowledge. The following are some of the sporting world’s most famous drug cheats.
1. Barry Bonds
Amphetamines, Anabolic Steroids
Former Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds has admitted to using something he thought was a supplement, saying he did not know he was ingesting performance-enhancing drugs at the time. Although he was not sanctioned by Major League Baseball due to a collective bargaining agreement, he was investigated by a federal grand jury and indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges in connection with the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) case, saying he lied under oath about using steroids. Bonds set the all-time Major League record for home runs, at 762, and also for home runs in a single season, at 73.
2. Jose Canseco
Although he did not admit it during his Major League Baseball career, former player Jose Canseco confessed using performance-enhancing substances, in a book released after his career entitled Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. While admitting to his own use of anabolic steroids, Canseco also said 85% of all baseball players were using some type of performance-enhancing drug, specifically fingering former teammates Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Ivan Rodriguez, and Juan Gonzalez, saying he injected them himself. Although most of these players denied their use, McGwire and Giambi eventually admitted it. Canseco was not sanctioned by MLB since his admission came after his career had ended.
3. Mark McGwire
Major League Baseball great Mark McGwire admitted to using androstendione, a legal muscle enhancer, in 1998, the year he hit 70 home runs to break the record at that time. Although he initially denied using steroids or performance-enhancing substances, in 2010 he confessed to using them all through his career. As this admission came after his career was over, he was not sanctioned by MLB. However, many of his baseball accomplishments were scrutinized and he lost a bit of his popular appeal. McGwire has said that he took steroids not to improve his performance, but rather to maintain his health during his major league career.
4. Shane Mosley
Boxer Shane Mosley, winner of world titles in three weight divisions and the current WBA Welterweight Super Champion, admitted to injecting himself with performance-enhancing drugs such as EPO (erythropoietin) and THG (Tetrahydrogestrinone ) prior to fights. He was another client of the BALCO labs and was caught up in the grand jury investigation. Mosley claims he thought the drugs were legal supplements at the time. He has not been sanctioned by the WBA and continues to fight
5. Marion Jones
Former Olympian track and field medal winner Marion Jones was forced to forfeit all medals and prizes won dating back to 2000 after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs. She publicly admitted using steroids in 2007, and confessed that she lied to the grand jury in the BALCO case. Jones was suspended for two years from track and field competition, and announced her retirement in October 2007. She was sentenced to six months in jail for lying to the grand jury.
6. Carl Lewis
Another Olympic medal winner who encountered problems with drug use is track and field star Carl Lewis. The winner of 10 Olympic medals (nine of them gold), it was revealed in 2003 that Lewis had tested positive three times prior to the 1988 Olympics, for the banned stimulants pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine. Since all three are found in cold medication, Lewis claimed to have used them inadvertently, and the United States Olympic Committee accepted this explanation, clearing him for competition. Lewis was never publicly sanctioned for this supposed “inadvertent” use.
7. Andre Agassi
Tennis great Andre Agassi tested positive for methamphetamine in 1997, but at the time, claimed he took the drug accidentally (from a soda spiked with crystal meth) and therefore avoided sanctioning by the ATP. The former World Number 1 professional tennis player and winner of eight grand-slam tournaments had dropped to No. 141 in the world at the time he took crystal meth, and the following year, rose into the Top 10, making the biggest one-year jump in the history of ATP rankings. Coincidence? You be the judge.
8. Lyle Alzado
Denver Broncos defensive lineman Lyle Alzado was one of the first NFL players who confessed using anabolic steroids, although the confession came after his career was over. He admitted to started steroids in 1969, claiming that the brain tumor he developed that eventually killed him stemmed from his steroid abuse. Alzado said in Sports Illustrated, “I started taking anabolic steroids in 1969 and never stopped. It was addicting, mentally addicting. Now I’m sick, and I’m scared. Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff. We’re not born to be 300 lbs or jump 30ft. But all the time I was taking steroids, I knew they were making me play better.” Before his death in 1992, he said his last wish was that no one else would ever have to die that way.
9. Bryan Berard
Bryan Berard holds the dubious distinction of being the first NHL player ever to test positive for steroids. Once the NHL’s Rookie of the Year (1997), in 2006, Berard, a player at the time for the Columbus Blue Jackets, tested positive for 19-norandrosterone . Berard admitted to “unintentionally” taking steroids after the test came back positive. He said, "I made a mistake that has resulted in this suspension and while unintentional, I take full responsibility. I became aware of the problem after the fact and for that I am disappointed in myself.” The NHL did not suspend him, as they did not administer the test , but he was banned from international play for two years.
10. Floyd Landis
Floyd Landis was a small-town boy from Farmersville, PA who went on to win the 2006 Tour de France. Unfortunately, he was stripped of his title after tests showed his ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone was too great, indicating the usage of illegal performance-enhancing substances. Landis has vigorously denied taking anything illegal, but still lost his title and was banned from cycling for three years. He is now professionally cycling again.