August 31, 2007 12:00am
HE was the most confident player of his generation, but last night Andrew Johns was an emotional wreck.
In a stunning confession to The Daily Telegraph, Johns candidly discussed his long-term drug and alcohol abuse and his battle with depression.
He admitted taking ecstasy and "other drugs" throughout his stellar career - but somehow managed to avoid detection by NRL drug testers.
"I took them throughout my career, mainly in the off-season," Johns admitted.
"At times it was like playing Russian roulette when I took them during the season.
"When we'd play Friday night, we wouldn't train until Monday. I took them then. Hopefully it (the drug) would be gone by Monday."
Last night, the NRL revealed Johns had been drug tested a total of 17 times during his career, but always on game day.
By the time the testing was conducted, the drugs were out of his system.
Johns revealed how taking the substances offered him a release from his high-profile existence.
"It was an escape from the pressure and to get away from being a footballer," he said. "People must think it's great being me and I have led a privileged life. But with that goes a lot of pressure."
Rumours have been rife in rugby league for some time that Johns was a drug user.
Last night, he said he remained proud of his unparalleled achievements in the game, despite the taint that will now forever be attached to his career.
"I'm not just a cashed-up sportsman who is a drug-taking wanker. It's not all black and white," Johns said. "I look back at my career and not many have achieved what I did.
"The last 10 years should have been the greatest time of my life, but I was interrupted by so many unpredictable situations.
"I was getting myself into trouble. It was all, every time, because of the influence of alcohol and drugs. It was an abuse."
Johns also admitted he was suffering from depression but said he felt uncomfortable discussing his condition because "it's not an excuse".
"I have a medical condition to go with this (drug taking)," he said.
"I have a tendency to go 1000 miles an hour or nothing. (Drugs) only added (to) my risk-taking behaviour."
He said his medical condition worsened when drinking.
"Only people close to me know of my volatile mood swings," he said. Asked whether he had bipolar disorder, Johns said: "I'm not answering that. It will come out."
Johns was arrested in London last Sunday, when he was stopped at Kings Cross station during a drug operation by transport police after the annual Notting Hill Carnival.
He had just attended the notorious club The Church, a popular drinking establishment among Aussie expats.
When an ecstasy pill was discovered in his jeans pocket, Johns was arrested and officially cautioned but not charged.
Yesterday he revealed how the arrest occurred.
"I was in the train station and I didn't have a ticket," he said.
"When I went through at the original station, this girl buzzed me through. She had a six-month (Tube) pass.
"I completely forgot what I had in my pocket.
"When I was stopped (by police) I said I didn't have a ticket and asked where can I buy one.
"He directed me and I went to the spot and it was then that the police checked me.
"I forgot I had it (the pill) in my pocket. It's up to people whether they want to believe it or not.
"I'm coming clean about it. My judgment was clouded after a few drinks."
Johns initially said the tablet was pushed into his pocket by an unknown man at The Church and he had intended to dispose of it.
"I know I've done the wrong thing (but) I stand by what I said, that some guy came up and put in my pocket," he said.
"But I knew what he was doing. I knew what it was.
"I was going to take it for sure."
An emotional Johns told how the most difficult part of the entire incident was informing his son Samuel of his crime.
The pair sat down on Wednesday morning to talk about drugs.
"That was the hardest bit . . . explaining to a seven-year-old what I've done," he said.
"It broke my heart. Kids understand more than you think.
"I just want to get home and be with my family."
After years of drug taking, Johns has now vowed to quit the habit - and sent a warning to his former NRL colleagues to use his experience as a lesson.
"Some players should look at the humiliation and embarrassment this has caused not only to myself but more my family.
Asked if he was going to seek treatment for his abuse, Johns said: "I'd be a fool not to."
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