A major FourFourTwo survey reveals that half of professional footballers think players use drugs.
The Players' Poll, published in the new issue of FourFourTwo (out now), surveyed 100 professional footballers across all four English divisions and the SPL – and the results will raise eyebrows in the game.
Half of the anonymous interviewees said that footballers use recreational drugs, particularly cocaine. "There's a lot of cocaine about because it leaves the system quickly," says an SPL midfielder, while a League One midfielder agrees: "I've witnessed it between team-mates and players from other clubs. I can't believe it goes on but it definitely does."
Although cocaine is not defined as a performance-enhancing drug, a significant number of the poll respondents believe 'doping' does go on in football. The survey reveals that 13 percent of players believe performance enhancers are used, with a further 19 percent neither agreeing nor disagreeing.
"Why wouldn't it happen? What goes on in the wider world is reflected by what happens in sport," says a Premier League player. A top-flight striker also notes that "You do wonder – I've come up against a defender who wasn't the quickest one season and then like s**t off a shovel the next."
A staggering 14 percent of the players polled agreed that match-fixing is still an issue in football, with one League Two defender saying: "It goes on, I'm telling you. I've had players call me and tell me to bet on the outcome of a match, especially at the end of a season in League Two or the Conference. I've never been approached myself, but I know it goes on."
Another defender currently plying his trade in League Two claims he and his team-mates had been told to throw a match during a previous spell with a non-league side.
Meanwhile, over a quarter of players claimed to have witnessed a fellow professional being racist first-hand.
"It's still there. I've had a defender racially insult me throughout a game and I know black team-mates have suffered the same", one Championship striker explained, adding; "maybe it doesn't happen as regularly as it did, but it's still there - it has never gone away."
"When I first started playing, I knew of players who would use racist language to get the edge on an opponent" claimed an SPL striker, who said 'nothing was done' about the abuse.
A quarter of the players polled also agreed that a gay player would be an outcast, with two players 'strongly agreeing'. One SPL player said the game wasn't 'a tolerable environment' for a homosexual player, although another player from Scotland's top flight claimed that any footballer who did come out would 'make a f***ing fortune' as 'everyone would be all over him'.
The majority of players - 62 percent in all - disagreed with the statement, with one Championship and international striker saying "I think you'd actually have some banter; he wouldn't be treated any differently".