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Bengals confirm contact with DEA and are compliant

The DEA and TSA conducted multiple surprise inspections on visiting teams, including the Bengals, trying to find physicians filling out prescriptions in states in which they are not licensed.

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency conducted surprise inspections with multiple NFL teams, according to various reports that surfaced late during Sunday afternoon. According to the Washington Post, there are suspicions that "NFL teams" have been dispensing "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."

The DEA, working with the Transportation Security Administration, reportedly inspected the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants Sunday Night at Metlife Stadium. Other reports indicated that the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs were contacted, while the DEA also met with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The DEA had reason to look at the teams inspected Sunday in particular, but the investigation is not restricted to them, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing. The official said the investigation focuses on practices across the 32-team league, including possible distribution of drugs without prescriptions or labels and the dispensing of drugs by trainers rather than physicians.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, DEA agents from New York met with the Bengals at Louis Armstrong International airport. Per the paper:

(The DEA) requested to see their medical practitioners’ registrations and paperwork for any controlled substances they were carrying, said Agent Debbie Webber, a spokeswoman for the DEA’s New Orleans office, adding the team had "everything they were supposed to have."

"Everything was in compliance," Webber said, describing the stop as a "very quick" check. "They had all the paperwork they needed."

The Bengals acknowledged that they were contacted by the DEA in New Orleans Sunday afternoon and released a statement that read, in part, that the "Bengals have never had any issues regarding prescriptions or controlled substances. We have a highly-rated medical staff that handles these matters with concern for proper and legal practices. Any issues which might be present elsewhere, are not present with our organization."

According to ESPN's Outside the Lines, the inspections...

...motivated by allegations raised in a May 2014 federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of several prominent NFL players, who allege that team physicians and trainers routinely gave them painkillers in an illegal manner to mask injuries and keep them on the field.

"DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the Controlled Substances Act," DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said Sunday.

"The Drug Enforcement Administration has a responsibility under the Controlled Substances Act to ensure that registrants who possess, prescribe and dispense controlled substances are following the law."

San Francisco 49ers spokesman Bob Lange said after Sunday's game against the New York Giants that "What we were told was they are random checks of team physicians as they travel to see if anyone is transporting controlled substances across state lines."

Per Pro Football Talk, the issue stems from physicians illegally writing prescriptions outside of the state that they're legally to practice.

For players with chronic conditions, the prescription is written and the medication is issued in the state where the team and its physician are located. For players who need prescription medication once the team has temporarily located to a different state, the team physician can’t dispense the medication without a license to practice medicine in that state.

In those situations, the visiting team should work with the home team to secure the medication. Some home teams, however, aren’t inclined to help the visiting team get the medication needed by its players. Which in turn may cause some visiting team physicians to take liberties when it comes to dispensing medication in a state other than the state where the physician is licensed.

Either way, we haven't heard of any violations yet -- not that it will be known until the feds actually announce something. And per the team's announcement on Monday, they were compliant.