Diego Maradona's fatal addictions: Football legend's battles with cocaine and alcohol haunted him through life
A cocaine addict from the mid-1980s to 2004, he first started using the drug after his record-breaking transfer to Barcelona in 1982
A star is lost. One of the greatest footballers of all time, Argentinian forward Diego Maradona died from a heart attack at the age of 60. Remembered for leading Argentina to glorious victory at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico after scoring the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal, the world mourned the death of the legendary player.
Popularly known as The Golden Boy, he often referred to himself in the third person as Maradona or El Diego but his life was not short of controversies. Plagued by a cocaine addiction from the mid-1980s to 2004, he first started using the drug after his record-breaking transfer to Barcelona in 1982. It soon started to reflect on his performance by the time he was playing for Napoli. Interestingly, Maradona was once quizzed by reporters in 1991 if the hit song ‘Mi enfermedad’ aka ‘My Disease’ was dedicated to him. The lyrics were: “Estoy vencida porque el mundo me hizo así, no puedo cambiar/Soy el remedio sin receta y tu amor mi enfermedad” translated to I'm beaten because the world made me like this, I can't change/I am the remedy without a prescription and your love my disease.”
As per The New York Times, the soccer star was given a 14-month suspended sentence for cocaine possession in 1991. Following a plea-bargaining agreement with the prosecution, a fine of $3,200 was suspended and he was subjected to a 15-month suspension after testing positive for cocaine use.
Capturing his fall from grace, a BBC report dubbed his downfall as “spectacular, painful and ugly” and read: “After a controversial Italia 90, a positive dope test in 1991 not only triggered a 15-month ban but hinted why at times during the World Cup Maradona played not so much like a man possessed but like a man deranged. He returned and arrested his slide by getting his act together to play in the 1994 World Cup in the USA. But he gave himself another downward shove with a maniacal full-face goal celebration into a camera.” It followed another positive test, this time for the use of ephedrine.
Not only his troubled connection to narcotics but his alcohol addiction also led to many setbacks. In 2007 Maradona was treated for hepatitis and effects of alcohol abuse. The symptoms relapsed within two days of his release from hospital and he was readmitted. Those days tittle-tattle about his health sparked three false death claims within a month. That year, in May, he made an appearance on Argentine television and revealed he had quit drinking and had not used drugs in two-and-a-half years.
However, his distress didn't end there. In 2019, he underwent surgery after a hernia caused internal bleeding in his stomach. In February 2020, his daughter Giannina asked fans to “pray for him” as she claimed he was being sedated with pills like a “caged lion”. But Maradona insisted he was fine. In an Instagram video posted on Monday, the former Barcelona and Naples player spoke from his home in Argentina and told his fans, “I want to tell you that I’m not dying at all, that I sleep peacefully because I’m working.”
Recently, on November 2, 2020, he was admitted to a hospital in La Plata and underwent emergency brain surgery for a subdural hematoma (a blood clot in the brain).
Calling it a “miracle” that he was still alive, his lawyer Matias Morla described the surgery as the “most difficult moment of his life”. As per The Sun, Maradona's ex-girlfriend Rocio Oliva “insisted shortly before his subdural hematoma was discovered that he needed urgent treatment for his real problem — alcohol addiction.” After rumors of death floated, he said he would not leave anything to his children and donate all his fortune to charity.