Doping scandals have plagued different sports for years. Whether it's the Olympic games, MLB, or even bodybuilding, the use of steroids is not uncommon. But what about soccer? Do soccer players take steroids?
Generally speaking, it is not very common for soccer players to take steroids. Soccer players are not allowed to take steroids. However, a few players have been found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs in the past.
So now you know that steroid abuse in soccer isn't very common. But what about the few cases that do exist? And what exactly are the punishments if players do take steroids? Find out the answers to these questions and more in this article!
Generally speaking, it is very uncommon for soccer players to take steroids to enhance their performance. However, there have been some cases of players using steroids.
Although soccer players are regularly tested for steroids, sanctions towards players who test positive are not handed out anywhere near that often compared to other sports.
Given that soccer is a team game where most teams have a very large squad, the need to enhance one player's individual performance is not as prevalent as in other sports.
Steroids are more likely to be used by soccer players to aid their recovery from severe injuries.
Steroids are not allowed in soccer. However, punishment and sanctions for the use of steroids can be avoided if the player has a reasonable excuse.
When it comes to rules surrounding steroids, each soccer organization has its own set of rules and regulations for teams and players to follow.
FIFA is the biggest soccer organization. In 2006, FIFA implemented the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code. They were the last Olympic sport to agree to this anti-doping code.
FIFA hands out a range of sanctions depending on the severity of the offense, ranging from a simple warning to a two-year ban.
There is also a potential lifetime ban for repeat offenders, but this has never been implemented.
Suppose a soccer player fails a drug test. In that case, they have the opportunity to prove that the substance taken was not intended to enhance performance.
If the player is found innocent, the sanction can be reduced to a warning.
UEFA is another huge soccer organization. Until 1987, UEFA only drug-tested players during big final matches, and only if they considered it necessary.
Since the 1987/88 season, UEFA made drug testing compulsory in every stage of their competitions.
The official rules put out by organizations such as FIFA and UEFA mean that soccer players can not take steroids.
Given that soccer is a team game, the need to enhance solo performances with steroid usage is less common.
Having said that, players might sometimes use steroids to help recover from injury.
In this case, there's a good chance that the player would be able to claim the steroids were not for performance enhancement and get any potential sanctions reduced.
Soccer players do indeed get tested for steroids.
Most soccer organizations do not publicly specify exactly when they test players for steroids.
In the 2006/07 season, UEFA claimed to have carried out 1,662 drug tests. Over 900 of those tests were for a substance called EPO.
EPO is a steroid-like drug that disappears from the body quickly, the same drug that the cyclist Lance Armstrong was found guilty of taking.
In the 2014 World Cup, FIFA reportedly drug-tested every player before the competition began. They also tested two random players from each team before every game.
The Premier League is one organization that does not share many details on how or when they test for steroid usage.
We know that there are usually punishments for players who fail to take steroid tests when asked to do so.
The most famous case of a Premier League soccer player missing a drug test was Rio Ferdinand in September 2003.
The ex-Manchester United star was banned for eight months by the Premier League for failing to provide a sample on the day he was asked to.
Rio Ferdinand would eventually take a test two days later and did not test positive for any illegal substances.
Premier League players are drug tested, and these tests do include testing for steroids.
However, it should be noted that the Premier League is often criticized for the way they conduct their tests.
Up until 2021, it was believed that only one Premier League player had officially failed a test for using performance-enhancing drugs.
This player was not named.
In April 2022, though, a report was released claiming that 15 Premier League players had actually failed drug tests between 2015 and 2020.
Of those 15 positive drug tests, 12 were for performance enhancement drugs.
There was one positive test for a drug called Amphetamine and three results for a corticosteroid called Triamcinolone.
Triamcinolone is the same drug that Sir Bradley Wiggins tested positive for when he won the 2012 Tour de France.
There was also a positive test for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin; a popular testosterone booster often found to be abused by cyclists and MMA fighters.
Out of the 12 positive steroid tests found in Premier League players, not one single player was named, and no sanctions were handed out.
The UK Anti-doping Agency claimed that every one of these cases was proved to either be accidental or was excluded as being prescribed treatment for a legitimate medical condition.
Whether this is poor implementation of drug testing or every Premier League player is completely innocent is up for you to decide.
The following quote about the Premier League's drug testing was taken from a British Independent Sampling Officer:
"If a club knows in advance we're coming, and the club suspects one of their players, they keep him off training, and his name doesn't appear on the list I am given."
Hopefully, you now have a good idea about how often steroids are used in soccer and how the testing works.
You are probably wondering if there have been any cases of soccer players who have actually been caught using steroids.
Here are some examples of soccer players who have used steroids in the past.
During the 1994 World Cup, Diego Maradona was kicked out of the competition after testing positive for five different variants of Ephedrine.
This performance enhancement stimulant is used to help with weight loss, something Maradona had mistakenly been praised for after losing 24 pounds leading up to the World Cup.
After being kicked out of the 1994 World Cup, Maradona would never play for Argentina again.
A couple of years before this incident, Maradona was also handed a 15-month ban after testing positive for cocaine while playing for Napoli in Italy.
While playing for Middlesbrough in 2005, Abel Xavier was handed an 18-month ban from UEFA after testing positive for a steroid called Dianabol.
Although both the test and sanction came from UEFA, not the Premier League, Abel Xavier technically became the first Premier League player to be banned for taking steroids.
In September 2003, Parma midfielder - Manuele Blasi received a ban after testing positive for an unnamed anabolic steroid.
In Italy, a newspaper called La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that the suspicious deaths of four former Fiorentina players may have been due to the use of steroids earlier in their careers.
The news outlet reported that Fiorentina's medical staff allegedly administered performance-enhancing drugs throughout the 1970s.
However, some believe this story shouldn't be believed without hard evidence to back it up.
In January 2006, Jean-Jacques Eydelie told a French magazine that he, and several of his Marseille teammates, all received some sort of injection before their Champions League final victory over AC Milan in 1993.
The player strongly hinted that the players were given steroids before the big game.
The former president of Marseille Football Club denied these allegations and even took legal action against the magazine that printed the article.
Across the entirety of soccer, the use of steroids is generally very low, with very few reported cases.
This is most likely due to soccer players not having as much need to boost individual performances compared to other sports.
However, the implementation of testing and sanctions appears to be very mild, and escaping punishment looks to be reasonably easy if steroids are used for medical conditions or recovery from injury.