Martin Smith Column: Drug raps will haunt players like Sheffield United’s Jose Baxter for a long, long time

Jose Baxter
Jose Baxter
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You wonder sometimes…

Young men living the dream of millions of kids - and even more grown men - of playing football for a living.

Not all of them are millionaires, most far from, it but they’re playing football and getting paid for it.

They really are the chosen ones.

Over the weekend three of them have been given notice of positive drugs tests.

One of them is Sheffield United’s Jose Baxter.

The others are Wolves goalkeeper Aaron McCarey for an unknown banned substance and Hull midfielder Jake Livermore who tested positive for cocaine. Baxter is believed to have tested positive for ecstasy, considered a non-performance-enhancing drug, and has insisted he has done nothing wrong and the club has suspended him without implying any guilt on his part.

Whatever the ins and outs of the case, the incidents highlight three things.

Footballers are normal lads with a special talent but not necessarily the maturity to fully appreciate how fortunate they are.

Some people think it’s funny and clever to get at footballers by spiking their drinks.

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Footballers are young men who make mistakes, some genuine others stupid, just like the rest of us.

But ask yourself this: If you were lucky and talented enough to be a professional footballer with all the benefits that brings - celebrity status, fitness, a great lifestyle and usually decent money - would you risk all that and your reputation by being anywhere near ecstasy, cocaine or any other drug that might get you banned from earning your living?

Regular blood tests in and out of competition mean players cannot get away with anything for long so why would any of them be dim enough to try?

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Under FA rules Baxter’s case should have been protected by anonymity but United felt it necessary to release a statement after the story was leaked by a third party.

The Professional Footballers Association have agreed to support Baxter: “at this difficult time” and it is thought that the circumstances of the breach will mean he gets less than the standard six month ban from football.

Even if they were all stitched up by someone who spiked their drinks they will look back in a few years when their short and privileged playing days are behind them and think: “What the hell was I doing allowing myself to be in a position where that could possibly happen?”