Cocaine or Steroids? Unveiling Doping Trends in Soccer

Norway and Italy are the two countries with the most doping cases in soccer. 36 Norwegian and 31 Italian players has been banned for using prohibited substances or methods.


The European Championship in Soccer in 2024 is to be held in Germany. The competition is one of the largest sports competitions in the world. A total of 24 European countries has qualified for the event which starts in the middle of June and lasts for a month.

The European Football Association – UEFA – is expecting 71.000 fans to be in attendance for the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on July 14th. In total 2.7 million tickets have been sold. In comparison, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022 sold 3,4 million tickets.

Countries qualified for UEFA 2024




























Italy, United Kingdom and Norway

14 soccer-players from Norway has been banned for using prohibited substances or methods. Five of these players returned a positive test for the steroid Norandrosterone. Cannabis, Nandrolone and Noretiocholanolone has sidelined in total six soccer-players. Only one player has tested positive for cocaine.

2016 is the last year we have registered a Norwegian athlete being banned after testing positive for a banned substance. Norway do not publicly disclose names of athletes banned for using prohibited substances, methods or anti-doping rule violations in general. We have therefor not been able to register any doping cases in soccer for Norway. When we visit the website for the Norwegian Confederation of Sports, we find 22 more athletes which puts Norway on the top of the list. Six of these tested positive for cocaine.

As mentioned before Italy is the country with the most doping cases in soccer. In total 31 Italian soccer-players has been sanctioned for using a banned substance or method.

The most used substance used by soccer-players from Italy is Nandrolone. Eight athletes have been banned for using the steroid. Cocaine comes in second with five registered doping cases. Prednisolone is the third most used substance.

Three Italian soccer-players has been sidelined after refusing to be tested. According to our database the last year an Italian soccer-player was banned was in 2016. The athlete tested positive for clostebol.

Players from the United Kingdom are also found of cocaine. A total of nine athletes has been banned for using the drug. Methylhexaneamine and Cannabis cones in second and third.

Just like in Italy, three players from the UK have been sidelined after refusing to be tested.

The last year a player from the UK was sanctioned was in 2022. The athlete tested positive for cocaine.

Cocaine and steroids

Nandrolone and Norandrosterone are the two most used steroids by soccer players. 43 of the players we’ve registered in the Anti-Doping Database tested positive for Nandrolone. Norandrosterone has sidelined 23 athletes.

Cocaine is the second most used drug in soccer. We’ve registered 35 soccer players using this substance. After counting the number of Norwegian soccer players banned, we can add another six to the list making the total 41.

According to an article published by the University of Sydney, cocaine can induce a powerful “rush”, leading to heightened alertness, excitement, and enhanced confidence. Athletes may use cocaine to improve focus, endurance, or to increase confidence, which it is claimed could provide them with an unfair advantage.

It is, however, according to the article highly unlikely that athletes use the substance for performance enhancement. The duration of the euphoric sensation is brief, no longer than 15-30 minutes.

It is more likely that the athletes have used the banned drug out-of-competition as a recreational activity.

There are discussions on how to suspend athletes who has used cocaine. The American lawyer and often used by athletes, Paul Greene writes in a paper: “Cocaine is categorized as a non-specified substance despite studies done on the potential effects of cocaine use by athletes have shown repeatedly that cocaine use does not improve performance and anecdotal evidence from the jurisprudence that suggests cocaine is not being used by athletes to improve performance.”


Antonio Duval of the Asser Institute writes the following in a paper titled Cocaine, Doping and the Court of Arbitration for sport:

“Cocaine is one of the most widely consumed drugs in the world. It is also one of the most often detected stimulants by anti-doping authorities. Indeed, cocaine poses serious difficulties to sporting tribunals, as it challenges the legal boundaries of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) drafted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).”


If an athlete can prove that the use of cocaine happened out-of-competition and it was unrelated to sport performance, the athlete may only be given a suspension of up to three months. A normal ban for use of cocaine is up to four years.

Just one doping case in the history of EC

Only one athlete has been caught doping during a European Championships. That is quite impressing considering the 2024 edition is the 17th in the history of European championships in soccer.

During the 2004 UEFA European Championship the Russian athlete Igor Titov tested positive for Bromantan and received a one-year suspension. The substance is classified as a stimulant on the WADA Prohibited list. As of this writing the Anti-Doping Database has registered 19 athletes banned for this substance.

Russia is not participating in the EURO 2024 due to the war against Ukraine.


Top 10 countries:

1: (5) Norway 14 (+22 undisclosed cases) - 36

2: Brazil 31

3: Italy 31

4: United Kingdom 24

5: Switzerland 15

6: France 13

7: Iran 13

8: Malta 12

9: Saudi Arabia 11

10: Poland 9

Top 10 Substances:

1: Nandrolone 43

2: Cocaine 35 (+6 Norwegian undisclosed cases)

3: Non-disclosed substance 29

4: Norandrosterone 23

5: Methylhexaneamine 20

6: Refusing or failing without compelling j ... 19

7: Cannabis 19

8: Benzoylecgonine 15

9: Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a ... 14

10: Testosterone 13

Top 10 events where samples have been collected:

1: Un-named In-competition 154

2: Out-of-competition Test 29

3: Out-of-Competition Investigations 12

4: 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup 6

5: 2001 Italian Serie A 6

6: 2014 FIFA Qualifying World Cup Brazil 4

7: 2000 Italian Serie A 4

8: 1997 French League One 4

9: 2011 Bulgarian National League 3

10: 2005 KCM Premier Division 3

Top 10 suspensions:

1: Two years suspension 93

2: Four years suspension ... 61

3: One year suspension 47

4: Six months suspension ... 36

5: Three months suspension ... 28

6: Four months suspension ... 12

7: 18 months suspension 12

8: Two months suspension ... 9

9: Eight months suspension ... 8

10: Nine months suspension ... 7

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