A number of NFL teams received a surprise after Sunday night’s football games. The DEA decided to hold unannounced inspections of NFL medical teams, locker rooms and even game bench areas in an unprecedented move. This action by the DEA is because of an ongoing probe dealing with possible distribution of drugs without prescription labels and the dispensing of drugs by trainers rather than physicians.
The investigation came about because of a federal lawsuit filed in May 2014 by more than 1,300 retired NFL players. The players allege that NFL medical staff “regularly violated federal and state laws by giving teams powerful addictive narcotics such as Percocet, Percodan, Ambien, and Toradol”. Many times the players allege these drugs were given on game day to allow players with injuries to perform on the field. Among the teams that confirmed they were inspected were the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found,” said the NFL’s spokesperson, Brian McCarthy.
The charges leveled against the NFL are being taken very seriously because of the level of misconduct that the players allege. Players have described being given unlabeled medications, teams filling out prescriptions in players’ names without their knowledge, and trainers passing out pills in hotels, locker rooms and planes. Two incidents that have been investigated by the DEA involved the prescription drug Vicodin. In 2013, the New Orleans Saints had to pay a fine because a security tape showed a coach stealing Vicodin, while a team official conspired to alter records to hide the theft. In 2010, the San Diego Chargers came under inspection after player Kevin Ellison was found with 100 Vicodin pills during a traffic stop.
Painkiller abuse is a significant issue within the NFL. Studies have found that retired NFL players misuse painkillers at a rate more than four times that the general population. In addition, large percentages have stated that they were abusing painkillers within the past month or taking painkillers without a prescription — or both.