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The history of drugs in Spanish football (2nd June, 2017)


During the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, Ramón Calderé suffered from a case of traveler's diarrhea, and was prescribed antibiotics by the national team physician. After the win against Northern Ireland he was summoned for a doping test, which came out positive.

Calderé, however, was not sanctioned, as the medical staff argued successfully the medication was administered to fight the condition, lest a severe risk of dehydration. He scored twice against Algeria in the following match.



After anti-doping control was implemented in football in 1990, well...

The first ever player to give a positive test in Spanish football was Dragan Panusic, from Castellón, gave the first positive in Spanish football, on January 26, 1992, for taking Bisolvon.

In February 1992, Albacete's Soler tested positive for testosterone. However, there was only one urine sample taken and so the tests were defective - he was sanctioned anyways. Shortly after, in March, a player from Racing Santander, Sánchez Lorenzo,  was sanctioned as he tested positive for dexamethasone.

In November 1992, Monsalvete from Segunda outfit Figueres tested positive for cocaine. He was sanctioned for two months.

In the 1993-94 season, Real Zaragoza player Sergi did not receive any sanction despite testing positive with amineptine. That same season, Valladolid's Toni, was banned for two months for testing positive for anabolic steroids, but was amnestied. In November 1994, two more players tested positive but were not punished, Dani and Paco Sanz of Real Madrid B, for ephedrine and other substances.

In 1997, Barça goalkeeper Lopetegui, in the first days of the League, tested positive for non-narcotic analgesic. The Competition Committee closed the case for "lack of relevance". However, the Anti-Doping Commission, six months after it detected the positive, appealed the agreement and wanted to reopen the case. 

In the same year, Borja Agirretxu tested positive for consuming nandrolone. In principle, the soccer player blamed it on some hair growth pills. He was sanctioned by 6 months, not to mention the six months that he couldn't play while the case was being solved. Yet, Compostela signed him and he played without any problems in the 1997-98 season during his "sanction".

In January 1999, Frank and Ronald de Boer signed for Spanish La Liga club Barcelona for £22 million, joining their former Ajax manager Louis van Gaal at the Camp Nou. After winning the 1998–99 La Liga title, they were unable to repeat their earlier triumphs. In 2000, Van Gaal was sacked by Barcelona and Frank suffered the ignominy of testing positive for the banned substance nandrolone a year later. He was suspended but he was reinstated after a successful appeal.

In December 2004 (sanction ratified in September 2005), Celta Vigo legend Giovanella was banned from football for two years after testing positive for nandrolone. On 10 November 2007 he returned to football, teaming up for Tercera División side Coruxo FC.

Carlos Gurpegui, a player who spent his entire professional career with Athletic Bilbao, had his reputation marred by a two-year ban due to a nandrolone positive test. Gurpegui was banned for two years on 3 November 2003, for testing positive for nandrolone in a 1 September 2002 game against Real Sociedad (2–4 away defeat, scoring both goals) the previous season. The ban was initially suspended after repeated appeals, with the player claiming that his body produced nandrolone naturally, but the appeals were in vain as he eventually was forced to serve his sentence, which ran until 23 April 2008; Athletic Bilbao, however, neither released the player nor took his number from the official squad.

At the beginning of 2008, a player from Granada 74, Borja Criado was punished for two years after giving a positive anti-doping test a year before, when he was in Ciudad de Murcia. Guess where the blame went? Duh, on a product to avoid hair loss (Finasteride).

In March 2014, it was announced that Granada midfielder Dani Benítez, known in Granada as "Dani Beefeater" because of his night raids, had failed a doping test in a match against Real Betis held the previous month, in which he was sent off after just 15 minutes on the pitch, cocaine being the illegal substance he had allegedly consumed. He had to leave the La Liga club and joined Alcorcón in the Segunda, but after making no appearances dropped down again to the Segunda B, signing for Racing Ferrol in the summer 2016. He has since recovered his form, and this January joined AEL Limassol in Cyprus.



He allegedly began using cocaine in Barcelona in 1983. By the time he was playing for Napoli, he had a regular addiction, which began to interfere with his ability to play football.

Diego Maradona, for two whole decades, stunned fans and defenses at his ability. But it's easy to forget the battle that Diego Maradona fought with himself, the battle that sometimes stunned fans too.

In 2000, while vacationing in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Maradona had to be rushed to the emergency room of a local clinic. In a press conference, doctors stated that it was detected heart muscle damage due to "an underlying health issue" - it was later known that traces of cocaine were found in his blood and Maradona had to explain the circumstances to the police. After this, he left Argentina and went to Cuba in order to follow a drug rehab plan.

But on 18 April 2004, doctors reported that Maradona had suffered a major myocardial infarction following a cocaine overdose; he was admitted to intensive care in a Buenos Aires hospital. Scores of fans gathered around the clinic. He was taken off the respirator on 23 April and remained in intensive care for several days before being discharged on 29 April.



If you've gotten tired of reading the word nandrolone, you might want to skip this part.

Nandrolone was probably among the first steroids to be used as a doping agent in sports in the 1960s. It has been banned at the Olympics since 1974.

To be fair, nandrolone can be hard to detect sometimes. Edgar Davids returned a positive test but his ban was later reduced after it was revealed that a cold remedy he took could have contained nandrolone. 

But of course nandrolone is so commonly used - who doesn't want more muscle growth, appetite stimulation, increased red blood cell production, and bone density?




Players who took drugs before or after their stints in Spain:

After: Mark Iuliano, Fernando Couto, Abel Xavier, Albeiro Usuriaga, Henri Antchouet (while on loan at AEL 1964 from Alavés), Pep Guardiola (while playing for Brescia. In May 2005 he was sentenced to seven months in jail and payment of 2,000 euros, but his lawyers appealed the sentence. He was finally acquitted of all charges in August 2008 by an appellate court in Brescia.)

Before: Edgar Davids (returned a positive test but his ban was later reduced after it was revealed that a cold remedy he took could have contained nandrolone.)



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