Today is Pablo Escobar’s birthday. Or would have been had he not been shot three times in a Colombian barrio during a gunfight with authorities on Dec. 3, 1993.
In 1989, Escobar was named the world’s seventh richest man by Forbes due to his staggering profits from cocaine trafficking.
In honor of El Patron’s 60th birthday, we here at Rumors and Rants would like to take a look at some of cocaine’s impact on the sporting world.
Just two weeks ago, authorities busted a $2.2 million coke ring in Pittsburgh where customers would order a quarter-ounce of coke (about seven grams) by asking for a “Ben Roethlisberger jersey” or a “Vick.” (Both quarterbacks wear No. 7, duh.)
See, coke and sports go hand-in-hand. The King of Medellin would be so proud.
Before I get into some of the more prominent coke-sports interactions, let me retell a story of my own personal experience with the two.
No, I myself have never used cocaine but a teammate on my intramural softball team in college sure did. After an all-night coke binge, our right fielder, who had been understandably awake for 28 straight hours, let a harmless pop up fall safely in the top of the sixth and final inning. Two runs scored and our lead was squandered. It seemed as if the drugged miscue possibly cost us the game.
However, in the bottom half of the inning with two runners on, the aforementioned right fielder strolled to the plate. I can’t imagine what was going through his mind, other than “Wow, my teeth taste funny.” But when the pitch neared home plate, he was ready for it, and belted a walk-off triple to win the game.
Cocaine and sports have always enjoyed a fruitful partnership. There was the NBA of the 1970s, the New York Mets with Doc Gooden and Daryl Strawberry (also know as the Coke Machine) and the respective drug rings involving student-athletes at the University of Montana and Binghamton University.
Here are some other notable admirers of blow:
The most feared football player of his era, LT admits to using cocaine as early as his 1981 rookie season before graduating to crack. But it wasn’t until 1988 that his drug addiction became public.
“I’d go through an ounce a day. And at times I’d be standing in the huddle. And instead of thinking what defense we were playing I’d be thinking about smoking crack after the game. Well, like well, you gotta understand though. It didn’t affect my play.”
To beat drug tests, Taylor would use a teammate’s urine instead of his own. But at the start of the 1988 season, LT failed a second drug test for cocaine and was suspended by the league for 30 days. A third positive test would have ended his career under the NFL’s substance abuse policy. So LT, according to his accounts, stayed away from the drug. However, in his second autobiography Taylor said the drug was the light at the end of his tunnel. “I saw coke as the only bright spot in my future,” he wrote.
A day after his final game in 1994, Taylor was smoking crack again. On the day the Giants retired his number later that year, Taylor was high. Crack became LT’s bugaboo and he was checked into rehab twice in 1995.
In 1996, Taylor was arrested in South Carolina for trying to buying crack. Two years later, LT was arrested again for buying $50 worth of crack from an undercover police officer in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was then picked up on a possession charge in New Jersey the same year. Taylor spent two months in rehab instead of going to jail in 1999, and says he hasn’t touched the drug since.
Last year Gasquet, a promising young tennis talent, pulled out of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami prior to his first match of the tournament. He claims his withdrawal was due to a shoulder injury, but the ATP drug-tested him immediately because the tour thought some players withdrew last second in attempts to avoid detection of drug use. Gasquet’s test came back positive with traces of cocaine.
The ATP banned the Frenchman for two years. But Gasquet maintained his innocence. His story went something like this: he was out at a Miami nightclub, ran into some hot French broad and engaged in a heavy makeout session with her. Apparently, she had used coke and during their saliva swap, some of the coke must have found its way into Gasquet’s body. Genius.
A three-man panel accepted Gasquet’s explanation and reduced the two-year ban to a back-dated 10-week suspension.
A five-time All-Star, Guerrero was an effing stud for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1980s. In 1981, he was part of a three-way tie for World Series MVP, sharing the award with Ron Cey and Steve Yeager. Guerrero had a rare blend of power and speed and in 1982, he became the first Dodger to hit 30 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season. He did it again in 1983. Sabermetrics guru Bill James called Guerrero “the best hitter God has made in a long time.”
He was traded to St. Louis during the 1988 season and a year later posted a career-high 117 RBIs. Injuries hastened his exit from baseball, as he played his last MLB game in 1992.
After retiring, Guerrero tried his hand at drug trafficking, though it’s been argued he knew little about it. In September 1999, he was arrested on charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Guerrero allegedly agreed to pay up to $200,000 for 33 pounds of coke from an undercover agent.
Guerrero’s lawyer argued to a jury that because Guerrero dropped out of school in the sixth grade and had an IQ of 70, it made it impossible for him to understand that he agreed to pay for cocaine. See, he thought he was buying the world’s most expensive soda. As proof of his client’s apparent retardation, the lawyer claimed that Guerrero didn’t know how to make a bed or write a check. The defense worked. In 2002, he was acquitted of drug conspiracy charges, but tripped over his untied shoelaces on his out of the courthouse. Take that Richard Gasquet!
Floyd Mayweather Sr.
Money May’s pops, Floyd Sr., served a five-year prison sentence after his 1993 conviction for drug trafficking. Mayweather was part of a cocaine smuggling ring in which the drug was transported in boxes of laundry detergent. You can see how the two could be confused for each other. I wonder if the drug mules used 20 Mule Team Borax detergent. Would only make sense.
A talented, yet underachieving pro, Jones was already considered a bust by many Jacksonville Jaguars fans, who expected more from the 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft. From bust to busted.
In July 2008, the receiver was arrested after police approached his car in an unlit Arkansas parking lot and caught Jones chopping coke with his credit card.
Courtesy of the Florida Times-Union message board:
“I’ve read more on this on another site. It seems the only reason he got caught was when the drug dealer tried to pass him the vile of coke, he tried to catch it with one hand and dropped it. The crashing sound of the vile alerted a passing officer.” – Mike S.
The NFL suspended Jones for three weeks, but allowed him to play pending his appeal. That gave Joey Porter a chance to chime in (though Porter rarely needs any encouragement to open his mouth). Porter questioned the league’s consistency when it came to players and drug suspensions. Jones responded in kind by pretty much going all junior high on us with this retort:
“I don’t even know why he’s even thinking about me. I mean maybe he likes other men and sits up and thinks about stuff, so I don’t know.”
One of the pioneers of The Dirty Bird, Anderson certainly is one dirty freaking bird. In February, the former Atlanta Falcons running back was arrested for cocaine possession. According to police, Anderson was caught in an Atlanta nightclub bathroom snorting coke off a toilet bowl. That’s right, he took some bumps on the same surface most people drop dumps.
You didn’t think I’d do a “Sports and Cocaine” piece without mentioning “The Playmaker,” did you? I mean this is a guy who showed up to his court appearance for cocaine possession charges in a full-length mink coat in 1996. Irvin got pinched again in his Dallas apartment when police forcibly entered his home to find Irvin with a female companion (not his wife) and drugs. Though charges against Irvin were later dropped. When football fans hear the word cocaine, Michael Irvin comes to mind. He’s a Hall of Fame worthy snorter.