There’s no getting away from the unfortunate fact that many elite athletes cheat to win. Many sports stars use steroids to gain an advantage that it doesn’t even shock fans anymore. It’s disappointing when it happens because fans believe in these individuals. We want to believe they’re better than us, so it leaves a bad taste when they test positive and their careers are ruined.
Steroids have ruined the careers of many stars for multiple reasons. Firstly, they usually result in lengthy bans and can cause athletes to miss critical tournaments. Also, sometimes governing bodies strip athletes like Lance Armstrong of their previous accolades. Overall, it damages their legacy and their image. Let’s take a look at 25 athletes whose careers were ruined by steroids. Check out the list below via Men’s Journal and TopTenz.
25. Justin Gatlin
Gatlin ruined his career with PED use. The U.S. sprinter was one of the infamous Trevor Graham’s students so it should be no surprise that his career is tainted. He was one of the best in the world between 2003 and 2005. Gatlin won gold medals across the board before it became clear that he was using steroids. He admitted that he took PEDs to boost his testosterone.
As a result, he served a four-year suspension from his sport. As well as missing some of the best years of his career, Gatlin also lost credibility. In 2017, Gatlin came back and defeated Usain Bolt to become a World Champion in the 100 meters race. But the crowd hadn’t forgotten his previous doping shame and roundly booed him. Gatlin paid the price for his decisions.
Silva is still a combat sports legend but now his record comes with an asterisk. In 2015, he fought Nick Diaz and won a unanimous decision. Then both men tested positive for banned substances. The result became a no-contest and Silva’s MMA downward spiral began. The drug testers discovered two anabolic steroids in his system and Silva received a suspension.
The Spider’s lawyers pointed the figure at a tainted sexual aid supplement. This line of defense failed to excite the judges in the same way it may have for Silva’s wife. Meanwhile, questions were raised after Silva’s rapid decline in form. He only won one of his next six fights before leaving the UFC. Some people question whether he was doping for his entire career but nobody knows.
The first of several baseball players on this list, Ramirez was one of the best hitters in the sport during his prime. However, his drug test failures mean that nobody thinks he was the best at anything anymore. He wasn’t even good at taking PEDs because they caught him on multiple occasions. His first major scandal was when he took steroids to increase his testosterone production. But it didn’t end well.
This landed him a 50-day suspension but Ramirez didn’t learn his lesson. He violated the league protocols again and this time, they hit him with a 100-day ban. Ramirez decided to retire because this was a long time to sit on the sidelines. But he wanted to return and made a deal with MLB. Of course, he never tried the simplest way of not getting caught – don’t take steroids.
Miller had the opportunity of a lifetime when Anthony Joshua announced his intention to fight in America. The pair agreed to face each other in Madison Square Garden in 2019. But then ‘Big Baby’ tested positive for steroids and the fight fell apart. Miller received a suspension for his antics and the match-up disappeared. Joshua fought Andy Ruiz instead. Then, the Mexican produced one of the most stunning upsets in boxing history.
It must have been tough for Miller to see this but he didn’t learn his lesson. After he served his suspension, he had the opportunity to box again. But then he failed another test and received another longer ban. Some athletes simply don’t learn from their mistakes. One failed test is excusable but two taints their legacy forever. Miller should have thought of this but he didn’t.
Maradona’s use of steroids didn’t ruin his legacy but it definitely brought his career to an abrupt end. The World Cup winner was one of the greatest soccer players ever. However, he marred his final years on the field by using drugs and PEDs. He used cocaine like candy and tested positive for other banned substances. Indeed, he received a suspension in 1994 and left the World Cup in disgrace.
This came after he tested positive for ephedrine. It was an extremely disappointing state of affairs and shows his weak mindset at the time. Maradona only scored two goals for Argentina in that tournament and never scored for them again. It was sad for his time in the iconic shirt to end this way because he gave his nation so much. Finally, he broke under pressure and took steroids to reclaim his former glory.
Montgomery was the fastest man in the world. Then, BALCO came along and proved the sprinter was living a lie. The American star competed in two Olympics and won a gold medal in the relay in Sydney. Meanwhile, he broke the 10-second barrier in the World Championships in 2002 when he set a new world record of 9.78 for the 100 meters. However, this was nullified.
After admitting that he took testosterone and growth hormones, Montgomery’s life fell apart. Similar to his former partner, Marion Jones, he spent time in jail. The sprinter dealt heroin and received a five-year prison sentence for his troubles. He also spent time in prison for money laundering. Steroids sent him down a dark path. He saw bright lights but he ended up in darkness.
First of all, let’s start with a disclaimer. Most people don’t believe that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug. However, Richardson’s situation was a massive story in 2021 so it’s worth including. She tested positive for cannabis a month before the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately for Richardson, it’s on the list of banned substances. She received a short suspension but it meant that she would miss the entire Games.
It was a crushing blow for one of Team U.S.A.’s biggest medal hopes. The story emerged that she smoked weed after her mother’s death as she tried to come to terms with that. However, many athletes believed it was her own fault. She knew the rules and it was her responsibility to stay clean.
Graham ran for Jamaica in the 1988 Olympics but that isn’t why he makes this list. It’s his nefarious deeds as a coach that earn him a place. He played a major role in the early stages of the BALCO Investigation as a whistleblower. However, investigators stunned the world when they prosecuted him for misleading them. In the end, he spent a year under house arrest.
He received a lifetime ban from USADA because so many of his athletes tested positive for steroids. These included Marion Jones. This was only the second time that they hit a coach with such a severe penalty. USADA claimed that his actions were even worse than when athletes cheat. They said this is because he has a responsibility for the young men and women under his care. But Graham didn’t care.
Braun missed over 60 games of the 2013 season after a major drug scandal implicated him. The Milwaukee Brewers star was brilliant in the seasons before this point. He was a five-time All-Star and had an amazing batting average. But then along came the Biogenesis scandal. It stung him and sent his numbers on a downward spiral. Braun continues to play for Milwaukee but not at the same level.
The former NL MVP had elevated testosterone levels in 2011. Then, Biogenesis totally ruined his credibility. Since he returned from suspension he only earned one more All-Star appearance. That’s damning when it’s compared to his previous excellence. People try to play down the significance of steroids in MLB. However, the reality is they can totally change the game.
Most people didn’t know what a picogram was before Jones tested positive for PEDs in 2017. One of the greatest UFC fighters of all time, Jones returned from suspension in 2016 after a hit-and-run incident. He put together a two-fight win streak but traces of turinabol were discovered in one of his test samples. As a result, the UFC stripped him of his 205-pound title and he received a suspension.
A picogram is a minute measurement that PED testers use to measure trace samples. This word entered the lexicon of MMA fans after Jones failed his tests because it was used a lot by the media at this time. Meanwhile, it also had a significant impact on the fan perception of the fighter. It threw his previous achievements into doubt because many people believed that he was doping throughout his entire career.
Sha’Carri Richardson wasn’t the only top U.S. athlete to miss out on the Tokyo Olympics. Coleman was the world 100m champion in 2018. He was one of the favorites for a gold medal in Japan but then disaster struck. After he missed a drugs test, he received a two-year suspension from competition. In short, this cost him his dream of a medal on the biggest stage of them all.
Although, the reality was that it was his own fault. After all, Coleman missed three previous drug tests before this one. Athletes must make their whereabouts known at all times for random testing. Missing one test results in a warning but missing four like Coleman is unforgivable. He may never have taken steroids but now everybody doubts him because he won’t even take a test.
The only thing worse than a cheater is a liar, and Palmeiro was both. The Cuban-American baseball star had an excellent MLB career. Then a certain Jose Canseco came along and changed his world forever. Canseco’s tell-all book implicated Palmeiro as one of the league’s biggest steroid users. Of course, Palmeiro denied everything and claimed he had never used PEDs in his life.
This made it even more embarrassing for him when he tested positive for anabolic steroids. This came after he testified in front of Congress and claimed that he never used banned substances. Palmeiro achieved over 500 home runs and 3,000 hits in his career. But his relationship with steroids tainted his career as much as his test samples. Maybe people would respect him more if he owned up.
Canadian boxer Pascal is a veteran of the sport. He fought the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev in a decorated career. Pascal previously held multiple light-heavyweight titles as well as a super-middleweight belt. However, he isn’t on this list because of his achievements in the ring. No, it’s because he failed four drug tests in 2021 and became a laughingstock.
Nothing infuriates clean fighters more than the discovery that an opponent took steroids. It’s even worse when they lost to that same fighter. Pascal defeated Badou Jack in 2020 after a controversial split decision. Then, he tested positive for multiple PEDs including EPO. Their rematch went out the window because of his actions. In the end, nobody likes a cheater.
Spain’s Contador was one of the best cyclists of his generation. Unfortunately, this also meant that he was on the sauce. Contador emerged after Lance Armstrong’s retirement but followed in the American’s footsteps in other ways. World Cycling still recognizes him as a two-time Tour De France winner. He also won the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta Espana multiple times.
However, Contador lost one of his Tour De France titles as well as a Giro in 2011. This came after he tested positive for clenbuterol. Contador tried to fight a suspension and the loss of his wins, but in the end, they stripped him. It wasn’t as devastating to his career as other riders on his list. But it does mean that he tainted his other titles by mere association. Everybody doubts him now.
When people think of Bahrain the first thing that comes to mind is oil. When it comes to sport, Asia’s third smallest country isn’t exactly a powerhouse. However, every nation is capable of producing a once-in-a-generation athlete. The Arab Kingdom thought that they had done so when Ramzi won gold in the Beijing Olympics. The distance runner stole the hearts of his nation.
But then he crushed them when he tested positive for steroids. There was significant doping at the games in China which brought them into disrepute. Ramzi’s test failure was one of many casualties. The Olympic investigation discovered that he used EPO. In short, this PED boosts stamina. They stripped him of his gold medal and in the end, nobody cared about him.
The career of an elite athlete is very short. Some stars cheat because they want to maximize their earnings throughout this period. Of course, there is some hubris involved because they begin to believe that they are the best. However, anybody who takes steroids can’t be in this category. Somebody should have told McGwire because he definitely fits this bill.
Jose Canseco tainted all of McGwire’s MLB achievements in his whistleblowing documentary, ‘Juiced.’ Of course McGwire denied all of these allegations of steroid use, but lost credibility soon after. A congressional hearing investigated steroid use in baseball but McGwire stayed silent. His post-baseball career is nonexistent and he’ll probably never make the Hall of Fame.
There were two versions of Belfort. Fans call one version “TRT Vitor.” This edition of the Brazilian made the Hulk look like a little boy. His muscles had muscles and it looked like he was one dose away from roid rage. Then USADA came along and started testing UFC fighters. After this, Belfort was never the same. He lost muscle definition and his performances dipped.
Clean fighters like Michael Bisping loathe steroid users. The former middleweight champion holds a grudge against Belfort because the Brazilian blinded him in one eye. This came during the height of Belfort’s alleged use of Mexican supplements. In the end, Belfort’s decline was innocuous. Fans stopped caring when it became clear that he wasn’t the same man.
Everybody knows that cycling is a dirty sport. Landis joins the ranks of athletes who tested positive for steroids throughout their careers. However, he also ratted out Lance Armstrong. The U.S. cyclist wasn’t the best on the planet by any means. But he was determined to bring the rest of the pack down with him. PED testers discovered that Landis’s testosterone was elevated after an unlikely comeback during the Tour De France in 2006.
Landis knew that they had rumbled him. As an investigation rolled on, Landis agreed to sell out his teammates and become a whistleblower. He was a major reason why Lance Armstrong’s downfall was so dramatic. Furthermore, he even made $1.1 million from Armstrong as a result of his whistleblowing. Landis ruined his own career but at least he got a decent payoff.
It’s no wonder that Jones tested positive for THG because she had a body like a superhero. Her exploits during the Olympic Games in Sydney were breathtaking. The problem was that she was a drug cheat and tried to deceive her way to the top. Jones won three gold medals in 2000 but she lost them all. After the BALCO Report implicated her as a serial cheat, her life went downhill.
Her attempt to cheat was remarkably brazen. The BALCO investigation revealed that her drug use began earlier in her career. She lied to the media and her fans about her prowess. It takes a very insecure person to cheat in this way because they know that they don’t have the talent to win otherwise. Jones served time in prison and also played basketball after her athletics career ended.
Long-term PED suspensions are relatively rare in the NFL. When players test positive for steroids, they usually receive a four-game pan. While this means that they miss a quarter of the regular season, it’s rarely a career-ender. However, the league hit Robbins with a lifetime ban in 2004 after his name came up in the BALCO Report. Robbins had many personal issues but this was a bridge too far.
He tested positive for THG like several other athletes in the report. As a result, he never played in the league again. The Pro Bowler let down the Oakland Raiders and all of his fans. Robbins suffered from bipolar syndrome and had issues taking his medication. However, the NFL didn’t believe that this was a mitigating factor. In sum, football is a dangerous sport and Robbins broke the code of honor.
Barnett became the youngest UFC heavyweight champion in history when he won the belt in 2002. However, he also had one of the shortest title reigns ever after testing positive for steroids. Barnett had already received a warning after a previous fight but this time the state commission didn’t show mercy. This wasn’t the last time that steroids affected the catch wrestler’s career.
He received a suspension during his time under the Affliction banner for PED use. Later, after a long spell away from the promotion, he returned to the UFC. But in 2016, USADA suspended him for another doping violation. As a result, the UFC cut him from their roster. It emerged that the failed test was the result of a contaminated supplement but Barnett claimed he lost trust in the process.
Everybody thinks that Canadians are the mild-mannered neighbors of the crazy United States. However, Johnson did his best to incite his nation after betraying their trust. He crushed the hopes and dreams of a country because he continuously used steroids. This eventually landed him a lifetime ban from athletics. Only he knows why he kept taking them, but it made him a hated figure in Canada.
Johnson won a gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games. This made him a superstar in Canada because it was such a rare achievement. Then, he tested positive for anabolic steroids and ruined his legacy. The Dublin Inquiry revealed that he used steroids since he started racing. In short, his entire career was a lie. Meanwhile, subsequent drug test failures after his suspension ended resulted in a permanent ban.
Team U.S.A.’s Gay was a regular medalist on the international circuit. However, like every other male sprinter of his generation, he played catch-up to the brilliance of Usain Bolt. While Gay did win a gold medal sweep at the World Championships in 2007, this was before Bolt hit his prime. Then, in 2013, Gay committed the cardinal sin of testing positive for steroids.
Despite the positive test, Gay refused to take personal responsibility. Instead, he pointed the finger at an unspecified third party and said that they breached his trust. But nobody force-fed him hormones so it was his own fault. The Olympic Committee stripped him of his silver medal from the London games. While he continued racing after his suspension, he was never the same.
Dillashaw was one of the UFC’s best champions before he violated their doping code. A two-time bantamweight champion, he decided to pursue a title in a second weight class. Dillashaw went down to flyweight and faced Henry Cejudo but lost in the first round. Then, to rub salt into his wounds, he tested positive for EPO. Steroids make a massive difference in MMA because they improve a fighter’s endurance and explosiveness.
The UFC’s anti-doping partner USADA suspended Dillashaw for two years. This was a massive blow to his career because he was in his prime. However, nobody forced him to use PEDs so it was his own responsibility. His former teammate Cody Garbrandt alleged that Dillashaw took steroids throughout his entire career. In 2021, he announced his comeback, but he tarnished his legacy forever.
Nobody used steroids quite like Armstrong. One moment he was on top of the world. But then it all came crashing down around him. It was all his own fault because he was involved in one of the biggest doping scandals of all time. Armstrong attempted to deny any wrongdoing but the truth emerged. He won the Tour De France seven straight years but it was too good to be true.
In 1999, an investigation made it clear that Armstrong led a doping ring. This stunned the world because he had transcended his sport. Armstrong lost $120 million in one day because all of his sponsors dropped him. Meanwhile, World Cycling stripped him of his titles and banned him for life. It was a massive fall from grace, but no less than he deserved.