Athletes and Addiction: Can You Attend Rehab Without It Becoming a Headline?



 Published July 1, 2019

We all know the Lance Armstrong story. Truth be told, that doping scandal was just the tip of the iceberg.

From all four corners of the sporting world, professional athletes battle with keeping up with the competition, and performance-enhancing drugs are one such way to do so.

But what about when athletes begin abusing drugs or other destructive behavioral patterns outside of the workplace? When depression and isolation overcome an athlete off the field?

Addiction in sport is quite common. And due to the nature of the work, it can be difficult for athletes to both accept and receive the help they need without it destroying their career. Yet, if you carry on without getting help, you put everything at risk—your career, your health, and even your life.

Michael Phelps, ((Papa, Anthony, et al. “Michael Phelps The Greatest Olympian Ever Smokes Pot And Drinks Booze.” HuffPost, 15 Aug. 2016, for example, lost his sponsorship deal with Kellogg’s when he was pictured smoking cannabis. Montee Ball’s ((Montee Ball’s Comeback from Rock Bottom Has Nothing to Do with Football. career in the NFL was short-lived due to an alcohol problem and depression. Chris Herren’s ((Kevin Conlon. “Former NBA Player Recounts Struggle with Drug Addiction.” CNN, professional basketball career ended due to drug abuse; paramedics revived him several years later from a heroin overdose.

Here’s how, if you’re a professional athlete, you can attend rehab and get the help you need, without landing yourself in the headlines.

1. Leave the Country

The United Kingdom. The United States. These countries, as I’m sure you know, thrive on celebrity culture.

Their people soak in celebrity problems like they’re their own. But there are countries where celebrities can walk down the street without hassle (and attend rehab without tabloids).

Switzerland, for example, is renowned for its security, privacy and non-sensationalism. The country has some of the most exclusive rehab centers in the world, all of whom prioritize your privacy and ensure that the tabloids can’t get to you.

Many centers here offer individual therapy and bespoke treatments so that you can get the help you need without fear of getting caught by, well, TMZ.

To find out more about rehab in Switzerland, watch our video series on Swiss rehab centers.

2. Get Exclusive Treatment, Tailored to You

If you’re a celebrity athlete who is addicted to drugs and you’re looking to get help and stay out of tabloids, consider avoiding group therapy sessions. Obvious, right? Well, while other people in therapy might not tell your story to the news there and then, they might sell it at another point in the future.

Keeping out of the tabloids is about risk reduction. The fewer people that see you, the less likely your story will leak.

Attending private individual treatment that is personalized to you is one way to do that. Whether it’s at Tikvah Lake Recovery center in Florida or The Dawn Rehab center in Chiang Mai, just be sure to keep it off-grid.

3. Get the Tabloids to Sign a Super-Injunction

Before you go to rehab, there are steps you can take with the media to legally inform them that they can’t report on particular issues for the sake of selling a story.

In the U.K., a super-injunction ((“What Exactly Is a Super-Injunction and How Do They Work?” The Independent, 24 Oct. 2018, is an effective way of minimizing reported stories about your rehab (it uses the term “reported stories” because it’s becoming difficult to avoid stories leaking on social sites like Twitter).

Ryan Giggs’ case is a famous example. He sought an injunction to protect his identity over an alleged affair with a reality TV contestant, as well as a super-injunction to protect himself against an affair he had with his brother’s wife for eight years.

While these stories were eventually leaked and brought to light by media sources, a super-injunction can be an effective way of reducing your risk of making the headlines, especially if your story is personal to you and uncontroversial.

4. Tell Your Team You’re on Holiday or Hiatus

In most cases, tabloid news stories are leaked from the inside. It’s not unusual for a member of your team to sell your story to make a quick buck. And while we encourage you to only work with trusted people, that isn’t always the case.

To minimize your risk of getting “caught in rehab,” avoid telling people. It might seem like simple advice, but money buys secrets, and the media has a lot of money.

Your team only needs to know that you’re away on holiday or hiatus; they don’t need to know more details.

5. Be the First to Share About It

This is definitely counter intuitive and not for everyone. If you don’t want to be in the headlines for a drug or alcohol problem or other mental health issues, submitting an honest, transparent statement to media sources or posting an update on your social media accounts is the last thing you would choose to do.

However, this approach may work really well. You may desire, for instance, “to be the change you want to see in the world” and show that it’s okay to seek out treatment for addiction and mental health issues. That it’s actually the best thing you can do and a sign of strength not weakness. You may feel that being straightforward and honest about your situation will actually help mitigate speculation and gossip, especially if you’re concerned about it leaking anyway. Although all were in blackmail situations, consider Alexander Hamilton with the Reynolds Pamphlet, Jeff Bezos with his Medium article, ((Bezos, Jeff. “No Thank You, Mr. Pecker.” Medium, 8 Feb. 2019, and John Skipper with his resignation statement. ((“ESPN: Skipper Resigns over Substance Problem.” ESPN.Com, 18 Dec. 2017, If you do go this route, be prepared for potential consequences.

Be Sure to Seek the Help You Need

With all this said, the most important factor about attending rehab is to get the right help you need.

Many locations across the globe have unique and tailored solutions that will work for some athletes but not for others.

Be sure to do your homework on the rehab center you’re interested in and choose a center based on the treatment available and the expert clinicians who work there. These clinicians, after all, are the ones who will help you get sober and stay sober.

Browse the LuxuryRehab collection to find the right center for you or continue reading our blog to learn more.

More From Our Blog