These days, it’s hard to tell the difference being a movie star and a professional athlete. With so much national attention on superstar athletes, it’s easy for someone to get caught up in the distractions that come with fame.
It’s easy to look back at certain stars, like Dennis Rodman, and notice the long-standing habits of drug and alcohol abuse.
But what about the athletes, struggling with addiction, who are playing right now?
C.C. Sabathia, a starting pitch for the New York Yankees, recently checked himself into alcoholic rehabilitation. While Sabathia had a rough year in terms of his own standards, many thought he would come alive and return to his original clutch form in the playoffs.
Sabathia, however, had different plans in mind.
He chose to get help. He was not afraid, ashamed, or forced into anything. He simply made a choice.
“I owe it to myself and my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player,” Sabathia said in a letter addressing his decision.
For others, unlike Sabathia, it’s harder to ask for help.
Lamar Odom played 15 seasons in the NBA for five different teams, most recently the New York Knicks, before retiring in 2014. Odom has also suffered with drug and alcohol problems for many years.
Odom collapsed in a Las Vegas brothel, reportedly from a drug overdoes earlier this month and remains in serious condition.
According to a 2013 ABC News article, Odom checked himself into a rehab center following a DUI arrest. He then signed with the Knicks enthusiastic about joining the team clean and focused.
Odom isn’t the only recent case of a professional athlete abusing drugs.
Jared Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings was arrested this summer for possessing two controlled substances. ESPN.com reports that Stoll was searched in a routine pat down before entering a party at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrest record, and reported by ESPN.com, Stoll had 3.3 grams of cocaine in the right back pocket of his swimsuit shorts, several gel capsules of MDMA and 8.1 grams of an Ecstasy-type substance with a street name of Molly.
You may be thinking, how do these players get away with such extensive drug use and still pass league drug testing?
This is because under the collective bargaining agreements of both the NHL and the NBA, drug tests only screen for performance enhancing drugs. Recreational drugs such as cocaine and marijuana will still show up in results, but players will only be referred to substance abuse counseling if the problem is “severe.”
The people suffering from addiction do it behind closed doors. They shield themselves from outside opinions, scrutiny and judgment, silently sinking deeper into their disease.
For those strong enough to take the first step and ask for help, I applaud you.
I visited Montpelier High School while on fall break and talked with Athletic Director Matt Link, who graduated from Castleton in 2008 and played varsity hockey for the Spartans. We spoke in depth about the culture of drugs and sports. He mentioned that although we hear about these shocking cases the majority of athletes must remain clean in order to keep their competitiveness.
“Your sport should be your addiction,” Link said.