March 30, 2007 / 12:26 AM / 12 years ago

Maradona sedated in hospital

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona was given sedatives to curb alcohol cravings at a Buenos Aires hospital on Thursday and doctors said heavy drinking was to blame for his latest health crisis.

The 46-year-old star revered as one of the game’s best players has battled obesity and cocaine addiction, appearing overweight and smoking cigars in recent photographs.

Maradona — a national hero who led Argentina to a World Cup victory in 1986 — was admitted to the private Guemes clinic late on Wednesday after falling ill. His doctor said he would stay at least a week.

“He’s out of danger and doing satisfactorily. ... All the tests are routine,” medical director Hector Pezzella told reporters, adding Maradona’s condition was not drug-related. “He’s sedated ... due to alcohol abstinence.”

Later, Pezzella told a news conference that Maradona “was stable and doing well.”

He said Maradona had friends and his two daughters at his bedside. Outside, fans wearing Argentina’s national soccer shirt and banners from Maradona’s former club Boca Juniors gathered, some shouting: “Come on Diego, hang in there”.

Maradona’s personal physician, Dr. Alfredo Cahe, blamed his patient’s jet-set lifestyle, family problems and an addictive personality for his fresh bout of health troubles, and said he tried to leave the hospital on Thursday.

He said Maradona had swapped his addiction to cocaine for alcohol. “It happened bit by bit, but that’s what happened.”

Maradona’s hospital stay was a reminder of the repeated health problems — many of them drug-related —- he has faced since retiring from the game in 1997.

Cahe said just days ago that Maradona had put on weight and smoked too many cigars, and was planning a trip to Switzerland to get himself back in shape.

A stomach-stapling operation in 2005 helped Maradona shed 66 pounds (30 kg).

‘WHAT HE NEEDS IS PEACE’

In 2000, Maradona was hospitalized with a severe heart problem while on vacation in Uruguay and tested positive for cocaine before undergoing drug rehabilitation in Cuba.

Four years later, he spent 10 days in intensive care with heart and breathing problems and re-entered rehabilitation.

Maradona was suspended for drugs while playing in Italy in 1991 and kicked out of the 1994 World Cup after a dope test — which he blamed on one of his coaching team buying the wrong medicine off a supermarket shelf.

Cahe said this week that Maradona had an “addictive type of personality,” but he denied he was using cocaine again.

On Thursday, Cahe was asked what he thought Maradona needed to help him put his health troubles behind him.

He responded that years of being an internationally recognizable star were taking a toll on Maradona.

“Diego has never been able go to a restaurant or sit down and have a coffee in peace,” he said. “What he needs is peace.”

Additional reporting by Cesar Illiano and Jorge Otaola

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