Diego Maradona’s Drug Problem: Cocaine Binges Between Matches Nearly Killed Him

Diego Maradona death

Getty Diego Maradona's drug addiction at the height of his career was well-documented in the self-titled film about his life.

Diego Maradona, one of the most legendary soccer players of all time, died at his home in Argentina after suffering a heart attack, Real GM first reported. He was 60.

Maradona, who led Argentina to the World Cup in 1986, scored the famous “Hand of God” goal against England and received the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament. After playing in Argentina for several years, Maradona went off to Europe to play in Barcelona and Napoli, and developed a dangerous addiction to cocaine.

Detailed in the documentary film, Diego Maradona, the soccer star, at age 27, developed a routine that would’ve been lethal for most athletes. While playing for Napoli, he followed this “physical program,” as reported by the Independent:

Sunday: Serie A match.

Sunday night to Wednesday morning: Continuous cocaine binge.

Wednesday morning to Saturday evening: ‘Cleanse,’ and sweat it all out.

Sunday: Serie A match.

Maradona repeated this routine at the height of his career until he couldn’t keep it a secret anymore and the physical toll became too much on his body. Maradona, normally fit as one would picture a star athlete, gained weight, looked bloated and developed a double chin.

GettyPortrait of Diego Maradona of Napoli after a match against AC Milan in October 1990.

His physical transformation was so noticeable that even his kids couldn’t recognize him after he returned home from a wild night out, the Independent reported in 2019.

Maradona Went From Being Known as ‘God’ to ‘The Devil’ During His Battle With Drugs & Alcohol

GettyArgentinian football legend Diego Armando Maradona escorted by Italian policemen arrives at the Giugliano Stadium, near Naples southern Italy on June 6, 2006.

The Italian media gave the soccer star a new nickname after he tested positive for cocaine at the 1990 World Cup semi-final and was not only deemed unable to play but was banned from the sport for 15 months, according to the Independent. In the Diego Maradona documentary, director Asif Kapadia shows how while Maradona could be in perfect control of the ball on the field, his personal life was incredibly out of control.

“When you’re on the pitch, life goes away,” Maradona says in the film. “Problems go away. Everything goes away.”

Maradona’s close relationship with crime boss Carmine Giuliano heavily influenced his life outside of soccer, and at age 30, “Cocaine had him in its grip,” said Fernando Signorini, who was his fitness trainer leading up to both the 1986 and 1990 World Cups.

After being banned from soccer, Maradona was arrested for possession of cocaine while back home visiting Buenos Aires and was given a 14-month suspended sentence. However, Maradona bounced back for the 1994 World Cup and scored a clutch goal in Argentina’s 4-0 win against Greece during the group stage round.

Nine days later, just before the team’s final group stage match, Maradona tested positive for ephedrine and was sent home.

“Maradona must have taken a cocktail of drugs because the five identified substances are not found in one medicine,” said Michel d’Hooghe, a doctor and member of FIFA’s executive committee. Maradona was again banned from FIFA, and he never represented Argentina’s National Team, La Albiceleste, again.

Maradona then went to play for Newell’s Old Boys and Boca Junior at the club level but still couldn’t kick his drug habit. He failed his third drug test in six years during his time with Boca Junior, ending his soccer career. The team’s president Mauricio Macri said his urine sample test was positive for cocaine, the Daily Mail reported.

Maradona Nearly Died From an Overdose in 2000

GettyArgentina’s head coach Diego Maradona speaks to the media during a press conference at Green Point Arena on July 2, 2010, in Cape Town, South Africa.

While on vacation in Punta de Lesta, Uruguay, in 2000, Maradona was transported to Cantegirl Sanatorium after being diagnosed with “hypertensive crises and ventricular arrhythmia,” the effects of a cocaine overdose, Vice reported in 2017.

According to Vice, Jorge Romero, the doctor who responded to Maradona at the vacation home where he was staying, told the El Pais, “When I arrived, they rushed me inside. I found not Maradona, but a man who was dying. He was in a coma, laid out in a chair, surrounded by people who didn’t really have any idea what to do.”

Maradona spent two days in the ICU before he could start breathing on his own. Guillermo Coppola, his representative at the time, said his return to like a scene out of a movie, Vice reported. “One night, you opened the door of the room and found a guy hooked up with wires. It was Diego and he says, ‘Guille, bring me some steak with fried eggs and French fries and get me out of here. Where am I?'”

Afterward, Maradona received treatment at the National Center for Mental Health in Cuba.

In 2004, Maradona Suffered 2 Heart Attacks in 1 Month

GettyDiego Armando Maradona, coach of Dorados de Sinaloa, in 2018.

Maradona once again faced death after suffering two heart attacks in one month in April 2004. Being extremely overweight, the former soccer stud entered the ICU with serious hypertension and pneumonia. Much like his overdose recovery, Maradona bounced back incredibly quickly. After four days on a respirator, he woke up feeling so good that he simply left the hospital.

After his second heart attack later that month, Maradona’s family forced him to take his health seriously and admitted him to la Clinica del Parque in Buenos Aires for a four-month stay. He also spent 70 days at the Cuban CENSAM center. Finally, in good health, Maradona became the head coach of the Argentinian team and in 2010 helped lead the team to the World Cup.

In a 2014 interview with Argentina’s Tyc Sports, as reported by Sport Bible, Maradona said, “I gave my opponents a big advantage due to my illness. Do you know the player I could have been if I hadn’t taken drugs? I am 53 going on 78 because my life hasn’t been normal. I’ve lived 80 [years] with the life I’ve gone through.”

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