Extra Points: DEA sends high-profile warning to NFL

(SportsNetwork.com) – The seedy underbelly of the NFL was exposed Sunday
when federal drug agents conducted surprise inspections of several team
medical staffs as part of an ongoing investigation into prescription drug
abuse in the league.

The “inspections” were carried out by Drug Enforcement Administration agents
in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed the existence of the investigation, which
is being spearheaded by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District
of New York. There were no arrests Sunday nor search warrants proffered,

Multiple reports surfaced that the San Francisco 49ers’ medical staff was
checked at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after they played
the New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ staff was questioned at
Baltimore-Washington International airport after playing the Redskins. The
Seattle Seahawks, who were in Kansas City, confirmed via the team’s Twitter
account that they were checked as well. As many as six teams were scheduled to
be inspected.

“The San Francisco 49ers organization was asked to participate in a random
inspection with representatives from the DEA Sunday night at MetLife Stadium,”
49ers spokesman Bob Lange said in a statement. “The 49ers medical staff
complied, and the team departed the stadium as scheduled.”

The NFL also confirmed the investigation.

“Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to
indicate that irregularities were found,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

The DEA is investigating charges that NFL teams are dispensing prescription
drugs illegally in order to keep players on the field in violation of the
Controlled Substances Act, something they could have learned from watching
“North Dallas Forty” in 1979.

Jokes aside, sources say the DEA had specific cause to investigate the teams
looked at on Sunday but the investigation is not just limited in scope to

The investigation is believed to focus on potential distribution of drugs
without prescriptions or labels, and the dispensing of drugs by trainers
without the OK of actual physicians. stemming from a class-action lawsuit
filed in federal court in May by more than 1,300 retired NFL players.

Agents were reportedly looking for documentation from visiting teams’ medical
staffs for any controlled substances in their possession.

The class-action suit alleges that NFL medical staffs regularly violate
federal and state laws by providing addictive narcotics, sleeping pills and
the non-addictive painkiller Toradol “without a prescription and with little
regard for a player’s medical history or potentially fatal interactions with
other medications.”

Federal law prohibits anyone but a physician or nurse practioner from
distributing prescription drugs. It is also illegal for trainers to handle
controlled substances, never mind dispense them.

If doggedly pursued this is the kind of explosive allegation that could
envelop the entire league and dwarf any previous personal-conduct scandals, be
it Ray Rice, Greg Hardy or Adrian Peterson.

But, this is really only a wink from the DEA in an attempt to alert the league
to not be so overt with its dirty laundry, far from a real attempt to clean up
the profession.

After all the DEA already has both anecdotal and concrete evidence that this
behavior has been going on for years.

A 2010 study by the Washington University School of Medicine found that
retired NFL players are four times more likely to abuse opioids than the
general public.

Last year the New Orleans Saints were fined for failing to properly store,
control and dispense medication after a 2010 incident in which security
cameras showed assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt removing
handfuls of Vicodin from an unattended cabinet.

In 2010, the DEA was forced to raid the offices of the San Diego Chargers
after safety Kevin Ellison was caught with 100 Vicodin pills during a traffic
stop. The sweep resulted in the downfall of former team doctor David Chao, who
wrote over 100 prescriptions to himself with the intent on dispensing the
drugs to members of the team.

Chao was hardly an anomaly, though. He was a scapegoat.

Over the past year, the DEA has significantly ramped up its efforts to reduce
what the administration describes as a national epidemic of painkiller abuse
which in turns spawns into an increased use of heroin.

And it doesn’t want a brand as popular as the NFL willfully ignoring its
stated goal or worse yet, flouting it.