Libyan Dictator’s Son Used Anabolic Steroids to Play Professional Soccer

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One of the sons of deposed dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi used anabolic steroids while playing professional soccer in Italy according to several reports. Al-Saadi Al-Gaddafi is reportedly negotiating his surrender after the collapse of his father’s 44-year dictatorship amidst the Libyan civil war. In better times, Saadi played professional soccer for the Italian Series A club Perugia. His 3-season career, consisting of a total of 26 minutes of playing time, has likely come to an end.

Saadi’s “career” got off to a rocky start with a failed drug test and never really got much better. Saadi failed his very first anti-doping test when he tested positive for nandrolone metabolites on October 5, 2003. Nandrolone decanoate is the active ingredient in Deca Durabolin. While a failed steroid test usually results in a mandatory two-year suspension, Saadi would return to make his pro soccer debut at the conclusion of a three-month ban from the sport.

Saadi, while not an elite soccer player, knew how to explain away steroid use like a pro athlete.

“I was surprised when I heard the news,” Gaddafi told al-Jazeera at the time. “There will be a comprehensive investigation of the past few months when I visited several doctors in Italy, Germany and in Libya to discover which doctor gave me this substance that appeared in the test.”

The case of Saadi Gaddafi is a notable example of how steroids alone are not enough to create an elite athlete. Saadi was not a very good soccer player by all accounts. Even steroids plus the unlimited resources from Muammar Gaddafi’s oil-rich dictatorship could not create an elite athlete. However, the money was enough to buy Saadi a spot on a pro team.

Saadi was the president of Libya’s football federation and a huge soccer fan. He also had business relationships with three pro soccer teams in Italy. The Gaddafi’s, via the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company, became a part-owner of the the Italian football club Juventus after he purchased a 7.5% share of the team in January 2002. In addition, Libya owned shares in the Italian car maker Fiat, Italy’s Eni oi company and UniCredit bank. The Gaddafi’s had long-standing associations with the owner of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli. Agnelli also happened to own the Juventus soccer club.

Signing Saadi Gaddafi to a pro contract in Italy was simply good business.

Saadi Gaddafi


Foot, J. (February 25, 2011). A Qaddafi Son, Italian Soccer and the Power of Money. Retrieved from

BBC. (November 6, 2002). Gaddafi’s son suspended. Retrieved from