Diary of a Pro Footballer: Messi, Kolo Toure And Drugs

Whether it's England stars snorting coke in clubs with their wives or MLS players smoking joints like stoner students, Rohan Ricketts reveals drug-taking among footballers is far more common than we might think.
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Whether it's England stars snorting coke in clubs with their wives or MLS players smoking joints like stoner students, Rohan Ricketts reveals drug-taking among footballers is far more common than we might think.

The news that Manchester City star Kolo Toure failed a drug test may have rocked the football world but it wasn’t a surprise to me. I know there are loads of players within the game taking both recreational and performance enhancing drugs.

We still don’t know whether the Manchester City player is guilty or not of intentionally taking illegal substances but it’s not the first I’ve heard of big name players taking drugs. I’ve even heard about one England international who likes to take Charlie and go out clubbing with his partner.

Where there’s loads of money cocaine is never far behind. Even when I was at Wolves there was a young lad called Chris Cornes who liked to live the playboy lifestyle. He got tested and was found positive for cocaine. Everybody was shocked but at the same time, if you give young men loads of money then some of them are going to start thinking they’re rock stars and forget what it means to be a professional sportsman.

We still don’t know whether the Manchester City player is guilty or not of intentionally taking illegal substances but it’s not the first I’ve heard of big name players taking drugs - one England international I've heard likes to take Charlie and go out clubbing with his partner.

When I played in MLS, there were loads of young players straight out of college who liked to smoke weed. They were just carrying on their campus lifestyle even though they were now pros. One guy I played against got caught but the whole affair was swept under the rug which seemed a little unfair when just six months later two New York Red Bulls players Jon Conway and defender Jeff Parke got banned for taking performance enhancers. I guess it’s all about who you know...

I’ve been tested a few times and it’s a very weird experience. What happens is you play a game or sometimes it happens after training, they come in and say you’ve been selected and now they’ve got to hold you until you go to the toilet - and this can take hours if you’re really dehydrated after a game. The whole time they’re hounding you - you get the feeling these guys think you’re guilty until proven innocent. Then when you finally are ready to go they stand there staring at your testicles!

It can be really annoying having a guy watch you when you’re trying to go to the toilet. Some of them clearly enjoy the power and tell you to hurry up but you’ve just got to have a laugh with them. I remember being in Toronto and the guy was getting the hump and I was just like, ‘I can’t go to the toilet, what do you want me to do?” He was getting really annoyed so I said, ‘Look mate you came in here and asked me for my urine, I didn’t come in here and ask for yours.’ He didn’t like that.

I remember another time in particular after Spurs v Charlton at White Hart Lane when there was six players being tested for drugs after the game including Carlton Cole, Kevin Lisbie and Chris Powell. We all looked around and the one thing that was instantly obvious was that we were all brothers.  So much for random drug testing!

When I played in MLS, there were loads of young players straight out of college who liked to smoke weed. They were just carrying on their campus lifestyle even though they were now pros.

Personally I’ve never taken drugs. I grew up in a Jamaican family in Brixton and was surrounded by my Rastafarian uncles all smoking spliffs so I used to really worry about getting busted for passive smoking. The other thing that bothers you as a player is getting spiked with drugs. When I was at Spurs I once went out to a nightclub with friends and this guy wanted to get me a drink. I accepted his offer but before I could touch it someone I knew told me he had put something in it. He was just a jealous guy that wanted to bring me down to his level. These days I don’t like taking drinks off people unless I can see it being bought and opened right in front of my eyes.

As for avoiding illegal performance enhancing drugs, I’m equally cautious. I was recently recommended some tablets by my local health food store owner that are meant to help you recover but there’s no way I’d take them without checking them with my club first. Any sensible pro would do the same – which is why I'm surprised as any Manchester City fan about what's happened with  Toure.

Saying that, of all the great pros, you could argue that Lionel Messi has used drugs to improve his performance. Aged 11, he was given Human Growth Hormone injections paid for by Barcelona – and now he’s the world’s greatest player. Could it be that this drug has given him his near superhuman power. I mean, have you seen the way he changes direction with the ball? Don’t get me wrong, I’m Messi’s biggest fan but if we’re talking about what’s fair and what’s not then maybe I should take a year’s supply of HGH and then we can see how it would change my performance.

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