Drug Enforcement Administration Investigating NFL’s Mishandling of Prescription Drugs

Last Sunday, three football stadiums saw action outside of the gridiron, as the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) made unannounced visits to verify ex-players’ claims about the misuse of prescription drugs.

DEA Scrutinizing NFL Teams in Wake of Prescription Drug Claims

The DEA checked the medical staffs of three randomly-selected teams playing away games: the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The staff members were asked provided documentation of all controlled substances in their possession, plus furnish proof that they can practice medicine in the home team’s state — hence why traveling teams were selected.

Is the NFL Violating the Controlled Substances Act?

The spot checks were part of an ongoing investigation into alleged NFL-wide violations of the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA first launched investigations in June after a May 2014 lawsuit filed against the National Football League on behalf of 1,200+ former NFL players. According to the lawsuit, the NFL and several teams, trainers, and doctors “acted without regard for players’ health” by widely prescribing painkilles and anti-inflammatories to mask injuries and get players back on the field quickly. Some physicians even used the players’ names to fill prescriptions without the players’ knowledge or consent, then distributed them freely and in dangerous combinations.

According to former players interviewed by The Associated Press, on game days, training rooms were crowded with players lined up for injections, and on flights, players held up fingers to show the number of pills they wanted as trainers paced the aisles. This sort of cavalier attitude toward powerful prescription drugs is dangerous, as they are addiction-forming substances.

Per the Controlled Substance Act, only doctors and nurse practitioners are allowed to prescribe and dispense prescription medications, and they must be licensed in that state to do so. Additionally, it establishes guidelines on how drugs can be procured, labeled, stored, and transported. Since NFL trainers are unlicensed, even just having a controlled substance on their person would be violating the CSA.

In addition to the most recent checks, federal prosecutors have conducted interviews in Los Angeles and two other cities. For now, the investigation will continue, although the three teams checked on Sunday did not appear to be in violation of the CSA.

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