Being an elite sport, football has a rigorous drug testing policy to ensure no team or player gains an unfair advantage by using performance enhancers.
It means players have to be extremely careful when fuelling their bodies and taking medicine. Injuries, illness, it all adds up over the course of a worryingly expanding football season, meaning footballers must take tremendous care in looking after themselves.
That means being wary of avoiding a lengthy list of banned substances. But by accident or intentionally, plenty of top players have been caught breaking the rules when it comes to drugs and had to face up to the punishment as a result. Here are eight of the biggest names to have failed a drug test.
The Juventus midfielder was provisionally suspended following a random drugs test taken after his club’s 3-0 win at Udinese back in August.
The test revealed elevated levels of testosterone, a hormone that can increase an athletes’ endurance, meaning the 30-year-old’s second sample was also required to be examined.
Pogba has since been found guilty and handed a four-year ban from football. He’ll be 34 by then, so there’s every chance this is the end of the World Cup winner’s career. He’s announced he’ll be appealing the decision, though, so this story isn’t over just yet.
“I have today been informed of the Tribunale Nazionale Antidoping’s decision and believe that the verdict is incorrect,” Pogba said in a statement.
“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me.
“When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations.
“As a professional athlete I would never do anything to enhance my performance by using banned substances and have never disrespected or cheated fellow athletes and supporters of any of the teams I have played for, or against.
“As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”
The Cameroonian became the subject of widespread media attention in February 2021 when he was hit with a 12-month ban from UEFA for testing positive for the banned substance Furosemide.
Onana explained that he had accidentally taken his pregnant wife’s medicine by mistake and would appeal the decision. The ban was reduced from 12 to nine months, but it ultimately resulted in an unfortunate end to his Ajax career.
Another goalkeeper, Bosnich failed a drug test in September 2002 after testing positive for cocaine during his time at Chelsea, where he had signed on a free transfer a year earlier upon leaving Manchester United.
The Australian was said to be at ‘rock bottom’ and was sacked by Chelsea, which led to an extended period away from the game as he battled addiction.
Bosnich eventually managed to recover from his addiction and mounted a footballing comeback in 2008.
Known best in England for his time with Everton before being signed by Liverpool, 20 times-capped Portugal international Xavier landed in hot water when found guilty of using anabolic steroid dianabol in September 2005, just a few months after signing for Middlesborough on a free transfer.
He was hit with an 18-month ban from professional football as the first player in the Premier League to be banned for using performance-enhancing drugs and not recreational ones.
Xavier claimed that the substance came from an anti-virus medicine he had obtained from the United States. An appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport saw his ban reduced to 12 months in June 2006, allowing him to return that November.
Renowned for his engine in the early 2000s, Davids’ blossoming career hit a roadblock in 2001 when he tested positive for nandrolone. In what became somewhat of an epidemic, he’d become the seventh player in Serie A to test positive for the substance that season.
After failing a second drugs test a few months after the initial incident in 2001, the Dutchman tested positive again, this time for anabolic steroids norandrosterone and noretiocolanolone following Juventus’s match against Udinese on March 4.
A 16-month ban which was tipped at the time would’ve seen him miss the 2002 World Cup, if the Netherlands had qualified, but Davids eventually only sat out of the game for four months.
Parting with £15.8million to sign Mutu from Parma in 2003, it was a shame to see the Romanian fall out of favour under Jose Mourinho after a promising first season at Chelsea.
It was an even greater shame when he received a seven-month ban from football in 2004 after testing positive for cocaine; the final nail in the coffin at Chelsea for a player tipped for big things in the Premier League.
Remember when we said Davids was one of several caught up in a 2001 Serie A steroid bust? Yeah, Stam was involved too, testing positive for nandrolone that October.
He was also issued a five-month ban which reduced to four with an appeal, leaving a rather gaping hole in the Lazio backline.
Frank de Boer
Another nandrolone user, De Boer tested positive for the substance after Barcelona’s UEFA Cup clash with Celta Vigo in 2001, and was initially hit with a whopping one-year ban.
However, that ban was chopped down to just 11 weeks when it was ruled that the Dutchman had unknowingly ingested it ‘by means of contaminated food supplements’
Ending one perhaps the most high-profile entry, Maradona’s cocaine use was unfortunately common knowledge after he tested positive for it while at Napoli in 1991.
The Argentine would bounce back, but was again embroiled in drug issues a few years later when he tested positive for ephedrine at the 1994 World Cup.
He was sent away from the tournament by Argentina as a result, bringing his international career to a disgraced end and marking the beginning of the end of his playing career altogether.