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Drugs and Dollars Abused in Sports, Poll Says

June 04, 1986

Many Americans believe that drug abuse in sports is rampant and that most athletes are overpaid, according to the results of a $200,000 poll commissioned by Sports Illustrated. In addition, some believe that some sporting event had been fixed in the previous year, the poll showed.

The poll, conducted by Lieberman Research Inc., was based on mailed questionnaires.

Of the 2,043 adults answering, 62% said that football had the most serious drug problem, with baseball second and basketball a distant third. The questionnaires went out in November, soon after the baseball drug trials in Pittsburgh. But the results were gathered before the drug scandal that rocked the New England Patriots after the Super Bowl.

On the subject of random testing, 73% surveyed said that teams should be allowed to conduct random drug tests on players. Only 14% opposed testing.

In money matters, 70% of those polled said that baseball players are overpaid, 63% said basketball players earn too much and 59% said football players are overpaid. Hockey players were the exception, with 36% of those polled saying the players were overpaid and 40% saying they were paid fairly.

While those polled felt that professional athletes were overpaid, they were way off on their estimates of just how much the players made. For example, the poll found fans estimating the average baseball salary at $219,000, well below the $371,000 average reported by the Major League Players Assn. Respondents' estimates were low in the three other major team sports as well--an estimated $191,000 to an actual $234,000 in pro football; an estimated $226,000 to an actual $340,000 in pro basketball; and an estimated $137,000 to an actual $152,000 in hockey.

In gambling matters, 49% of those surveyed said that some sporting event had been fixed in the previous 12 months. Asked the sports in which they thought at least one event had been fixed in the previous year, 30% said boxing and 23% said thoroughbred racing.

The survey went to 2,000 men and 2,000 women in various age and economic groups with varying educational backgrounds. The results included a 3% margin for error.

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