What do Michael Phelps, Josh Hamilton and Allen Iverson have in common?

Yes, they are all exceptional athletes, but there’ something more.

Give up?

They all struggled with substance abuse during their careers.

Studies show that almost 50% of NFL players smoke marijuana on a regular basis, and as much as 80% of NBA players do the same. On the collegiate level, however, the levels are much lower. But, studies show that college athletes consume almost 25% more alcohol than their peers. One can only imagine how much this level raises when some go pro.

A recent study conducted by Dr. Connor O’Brien in the Sports Medicine Journal showed that 68% of basketball players and 70% of football players admitted to heavily drinking alcohol the day before training or playing.

Skip Bayless with ESPN recently stated in an article about recent allegations that Randy Moss smoked marijuana on a regular basis that he would fear extreme alcohol consumption in athletes more than marijuana consumption.

“Alcohol dramatically alters a person’s normal state, often bringing out his or her worst side, with little or no control over motor skills or better judgment. Marijuana mostly suspends a person’s normal state, allowing him or her to escape into an inner fantasy world moving in slow motion. I fear people who are drunk, in bars and driving cars. I don’t fear people who are high on grass.” – Skip Bayless

Perhaps one of the most popular professional athlete alcohol abuse stories belongs to now-Christian Josh Hamilton. After early success and signing to play Major League Baseball as a teenager, Hamilton found himself with more money than he could handle. After losing his parents and almost losing his ability to play baseball, Hamilton drifted into a very dark place. He started to develop an alcohol problem as well as a drug addiction.

Since becoming a Christian and turning his life around, Hamilton has overcome his addictions and now is married with children. He was recently traded from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Angels.

Watch his story on I Am Second.


“Professional athletes endure a great deal of physical and emotional stress throughout the course of their careers. Whether it’s the wear and tear on their bodies that guides them toward painkiller abuse or the pressures of performance expectation that leads them to alcohol and drug addiction, the professional athlete remains more vulnerable to chemical dependency than those in many other professions” – Behavior Health Rehabilitation Center of Palm Beach

According to Hal Tearse at LetsPlayHockey.com, alcohol can diminish performance in sports by almost 25%. When an athlete gets drunk, it negates up to 14 days of training. This is because “during training periods, the enzymes in the body increase, which is important to increasing strength and stamina. However, alcohol usage quickly lowers the enzymes that are essential to top performance.”

Substance abuse is sweeping the professional sports field. As much as 70% of football players and 80% of basketball players either abuse drugs or alcohol on a regular basis. Why isn’t anything being done to stop these numbers from rising?