DEA Searches NFL Teams for Illegally Prescribed Painkillers, Drugs


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched suprise investigations of various NFL teams yesterday, reports The Washington Post:

The inspections, which entailed bag searches and questioning of team doctors by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, were based on the suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, according to a senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.

A class-action lawsuit filed by 1,300 retired football players "allege[s] that NFL medical staffs regularly violate federal and state laws in plying their teams with powerful addictive narcotics such as Percocet and Percodan, sleeping pills such as Ambien and the non-addictive painkiller Toradol to help them play through injuries on game days."

The San Diego Chargers, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Seattle Seahawks are among the teams that acknowledged searches (though it's not clear if those teams were being singled out for specific reasons). The pretext for the searches is the alleged painkiller abuse at the heart of the class-action lawsuit.

The DEA's investigative interest in the NFL is partly based on the agency's conviction that lackadaisical prescribing practices creates addicts. McMahon, who played from 1982 to 1996, said in the lawsuit that he received "hundreds, if not thousands" of injections and pills from NFL doctors and trainers, including Percocet, Toradol, Novocaine, amphetamines, sleeping pills and muscle relaxers. He said he became so hooked on pain meds that at one point he took 100 Percocets a month.

There's this, too:

An investigation of NFL medical practices by The Washington Post last year documented painkiller abuse in the league. In a Post survey of more than 500 retired players, one in four said he felt pressure from team doctors to take medication he was uncomfortable with. Players told The Post that they swallowed prescriptions on an almost daily basis, frequently without documentation.

Read the whole thing here.

Given the physical punishment that is at the very center of the game at all levels, it's worth asking whether we've reached peak football. Between this sort of action and growing questions about concussions and traumatic brain injuries, it's totally plausible that football, despite its immense popularity, has a time-limited future.

Last year, Reason TV sat down with Gregg Easterbrook to talk about his book The King of Sports and football's imperiled future.