In our collective culture athletes are highly respected. Their dedication to their sport, their discipline, skills, and their bodies are all aspects we admire. These athletes, at the peak of their careers are also in top physical condition. This however seems to quickly deteriorate once an athlete retires.
Once an athlete leaves the game they also leave the intense training and strict diet that kept them in tip top shape. Sometimes they gain weight at an unbelievable rate that is quite often shocking to the public that once cheered for them.
This often begs the question of “How”? One very natural answer is aging. Another factor that contributes to the weight gain is once the burden of the sport has been lifted, athletes feel the freedom of eating whatever they want. At the same time though they also feel the freedom of not having to workout so intensely. This combination can lead to unfortunate consequences. Abandoning their workout time and at the same time binge eating. Athlete Kyle Mauch describes how difficult it is to hit the gym again after getting out of shape on his blog “Crafting a Life of Purpose after Sports”. Let’s keep this in mind as we explore these ten athletes who have let themselves go after their careers.
10. Tonya Harding
This figure skater was perhaps best known for the scandalous actions of her ex-husband, who hired someone to injure one of her main competitors, Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. Harding though had many accomplishments, and was a 2-time Olympian, has won the U.S figure skating championship and is one of the few women to complete a triple axel jump in competition.
After her days on the ice ended she packed on a little weight. This may have led to her new path, boxing. Harding’s slim figure was useful on the ice, but her newfound weight was useful in the ring.
9. Charles Barkley
Thought to be a little short for his position as power forward, Charles Barkley excelled at a height of 6 ft 6 (though his book I May Be Wrong but I Doubt stated that he was 6 ft 4). His rookie weight is recorded to be 252 lbs and was later recorded to be about 350 lbs at his max weight. Barkley wasn’t happy about this change and has been quoted saying “there is no excuse for me being 100 pounds overweight.”
8. George Foreman
Before being known for the Foreman Grill, George Foreman was actually an accomplished, and very physically fit, boxer. During his career he won 76 matches and only lost 5. At 6 ft 4 he was a lean beast with 217 lbs of brute force on his frame. Foreman is also the oldest heavy weight champion of the world.
Most of us know George Foreman for his entrepreneurial venture, the Foreman Grill. With this success he also packed on a few pounds, though maybe not from his grill. He has been speculated to be at 260 pounds these days.
7. Mike Tyson
Undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, with 50 wins, 6 losses, 2 no-contests and 1 face tattoo. This is Mike Tyson. He is the youngest boxer to win the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association, and International Boxing Federation at the age of 20. According to Doghouse Boxing, Tyson is 5 ft 10 and ESPN weighs him in at 218 lbs at his peak around 1988.
Mike Tyson’s life has had many ups and downs. Along with his many successes he has also struggled with drug addiction, has had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and CNN reported his daughter dead in 2009. Perhaps because of these traumatic events his weight has fluctuated as well.
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, who is known simply as Ronaldo, is one of the most recognized soccer players in the world. Unfortunately after suffering a string of injuries he also struggled to maintain an ideal weight for his sport, all of which, as the Guardian explained in 2014, limited his speed, mobility and fitness.
Ronaldo, at 6ft, weighed in at around 160. Soccer players need to stay lean in order to have good endurance and speed. In 2007 he also found out he had hypothyroidism, something which would make his weight struggle even more difficult. His maximum recorded weight, according to Ronaldohome.com, was 220 lbs, Ronaldo retired from the field at the age of 34.
Shaquille O’Neal has had an illustrious career. This beast of a basketball player towers over at 7 ft 1, and had a rookie weight of 285- 294 lbs. Over his career he has scored 28,596 points, was on the 1996 Olympic “Dream Team”, and 2014 was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
During the 2002-2003 season Shaq missed 12 games because of a toe injury and surgery. Then again in the 2006-2007 season he missed 35 games after a knee injury and surgery. His career slowed down after these injuries and in 2011 he officially announced his retirement. It is no surprise that this giant put on the weight, and is estimated to weigh around 360 lbs now, although some sources state this figure can be closer to 400 lbs.
4. Mickey Rourke
We may recognize Mickey Rourke more as an actor these days than a boxer, but he enjoyed a fruitful and quite successful boxing career for almost a total of fifteen years.
Boxing is never easy on the body. You have to expect to break some bones and take a lot of punches. When you compete for a long period of time, like Rourke had, damage is inevitable. According to the Daily Mail, Rourke suffered from a broken nose, toe, and ribs, as well as a split tongue, a compressed cheekbone and short term memory loss.
This doesn’t make a pretty picture. Rourke had to undergo many reconstructive surgeries because of all the damage boxing had done to his body and face. The surgeries seemed to have done more harm than good and in 2008 CNN described Rourke’s face as “appallingly disfigured.” In 2009 Rourke described to the Daily Mail that he had 5 surgeries on his noes alone and even admitted that he had “gone to the wrong guy to put my face together.”
3. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson was a basketball all-star. He is even in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Playing point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers for 13 seasons and was on the team known as the “Dream Team” in the 1992 Olympics. A beast on the court, Magic was listed as 6 ft 9 in the NBA Encyclopedia (the tallest point guard in history) and weighed in at 220 lbs at his peak according to www.nba.com.
Magic had some big fluctuations in his life, including contracting HIV in 1991. He continued to play and even bulked up a little. But these days he seems to have bulked up even more as seen in this photo of Magic at the beach. His son, EJ Johnson, also struggled with his weight and underwent gastric sleeve surgery in 2014.
2. Rulon Gardner
This Olympian competed in 2000 and won the gold for the USA in Greco-Roman wrestling. He defeated the previously undefeated Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin and brought the title, and pride, back to America. Gardner also appeared on the 11th season of the reality television show “The Biggest Loser” as a contestant.
For such a sport you need to be a little heavy to begin with, and Rulon Gardner was solid at 264 lbs at the 2004 Athens Olympics. After much success as an Olympian, winning the gold in Sydney and the Bronze in Athens, Gardner reappeared in the spotlight, but this time the occasion wasn’t full of honor as before; in 2011 he weighed in at 474 pounds on “The Biggest Loser”, a show where contestants try to compete to lose the most weight.
Gardner showed his stuff on the show however and managed to lose 173 lbs after 16 weeks. He left the show shortly after that, with no final weigh in, for what he stated on the show as “personal reasons.”
1. Diego Maradona
This soccer legend played on an equally legendary team, the Argentina National team. Diego Maradona is considered by many critics, current and former players, and experts as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. This grand title was epitomized when he was named the FIFA Player of the 20th Century along with Pele.
Maradona is often seen as a controversial figure. While his skill is undeniable he struggled with drugs. In 1991 he was suspended for 15 months after failing a drug test and during the 1994 World Cup was sent home after testing positive for ephedrine. It was known that he had a cocaine problem and even overdosed in 2004. His subsequent recovery is speculated to be a reason for his extreme weight gain.