Professional athletes are idolized, but sadly many of the men and women who reach the highest level of competition in their sport have done so by using substances. Steroid use in baseball has been the topic of controversy for years now, prescription painkiller use, abuse, and addiction has infiltrated the NFL, and even Lance Armstrong has come forward saying that he used performance-enhancing drugs to reach the top of professional cycling.
The most recent revelation is Mike Tyson: “I was a full-blown cokehead.” In his tell-all memoir, Undisputed Truth, Tyson discloses that he was high on cocaine and marijuana for most of his major fights.
Tyson says that he was given alcohol as a baby and that he tried cocaine for the first time at age 11. He attributes his appetite for substances to his early exposure, which is supported by data and study results: the age of first use of any mind-altering substance majorly contributes to the development of abuse and addiction later in life.
Although he is the youngest professional boxer to win the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, and the Interntaionl Boxing Federation heavyweight titles, drugs and alcohol seemed to create an unbreakable cycle for Mike Tyson. Alcoholism and addiction has taken him down a dark path.
The Illusion Addiction Creates
In Undisputed Truth, Tyson says, “The history of war is the history of drugs. Every great general and warrior from the beginning of time was high.” His words stand to support his drug use, apparently believing he needed substances to win fights.
In 1989, Mike Tyson was scheduled to fight Frank Bruno for the first time. Tyson was out of fighting shape, and admits Bruno should have won the fight, but with drugs, Tyson was able to pull out a victory.
Cocaine possibly gave Mike Tyson the energy to fight and win, but it also impaired his judgment on many occasions. It seems cocaine can explain why Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear in their 1997 fight, and why he brawled with Lennox Lewis before a scheduled fight between the two.
How did Mike Tyson keep passing required drug tests?
One of his choices was to keep using drugs, but then, in his words, “I had to use my whizzer, which was a fake penis where you put in someone else’s clean urine to pass your drug test.” He failed one drug test after a fight with Andrew Golota in 2000 when he didn’t have time to get the “whizzer.”
Still Not Rock Bottom
Drug use outside the ring led Mike Tyson to three years in prison for the rape of Desiree Washington, a contender in the Miss Black America pageant. Tyson still denies that he raped Ms. Washington, and even claims prison was not that bad; he enjoyed lobster and an affair with his drug counselor.
Mike Tyson Today
At 47, Tyson admits that he almost died from severe alcoholism that he has been hiding, and lying about, for years. Through a few stints in rehab, Tyson is now trying to start a new life without substances.
Marissa Maldonado is an outreach director who focuses on dual diagnosis residential treatment at Sovereign Health.