Report: NFL Teams Broke Federal Law on Painkillers

'Don’t worry, I’m pretty good at keeping them off the trail!'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2017 8:38 AM CST
2 Notes Offer Glimpse of NFL View of Painkillers
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater lies on the field after a tackle by St. Louis Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner in 2015.   (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

The Washington Post is out with a damning report on the use of prescription painkillers in the NFL, asserting that teams have for years broken federal laws regarding how the drugs are dispensed and tracked. The story by Rick Maese, based on sealed court documents from a lawsuit by former players, has jarring stats like this: In 2012, the average team provided 5,777 doses of prescription-strength anti-inflammatory drugs to its players, along with 2,213 doses of controlled medications, which works out to one player getting about a half-dozen pills or shots a week. And that's based on teams' official logs, which skeptics say probably undershoot the numbers. Two notes included in the filing convey the gist:

  • From Cincinnati Bengals head trainer Paul Sparling in 2009: "Can you have your office fax a copy of your DEA certificate to me? I need it for my records when the NFL 'pill counters' come to see if we are doing things right. Don’t worry, I’m pretty good at keeping them off the trail!"
  • From Minnesota Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman in 2006: "I expressed my concern that [the Vikings] are at a competitive disadvantage," he wrote to the head coach of his dismay that the team wasn't using a strong painkiller called Toradol. "I feel very strongly about this point. ... I feel that Dr. Fischer (the team doctor) is beginning to see my point of view on many issues. I also feel he is willing to change to improve."
The Post reports Toradol is framed as an NFL "staple" in the lawsuit, and explains that while the drug doesn't have Vicodin's addictive qualities, "it is powerful enough that many countries only administer it in hospitals and only after surgery." Read the Post's full story here. (More NFL stories.)

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