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Bengals trainer named in lawsuit regarding NFL drug abuse

This is a pretty bad, albeit not completely surprising, look for the NFL.

The National Football League and its teams are under investigation after violating federal laws in regards to the Drug Enforcement Administration and how teams store, track, transport and distribute controlled substances, per The Washington Post.

A federal lawsuit has been filed by former players and details how team doctors utilize and manage pain pills in the NFL.

Per The Washington Post:

The filing, which was prepared by lawyers for the players suing the league, asserts that “every doctor deposed so far . . . has testified that they violated one or more” federal drug laws and regulations “while serving in their capacity as a team doctor.” Anthony Yates, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team doctor and past president of the NFL Physicians Society, testified in a deposition that “a majority of clubs as of 2010 had trainers controlling and handling prescription medications and controlled substances when they should not have,” the filing states.

The Bengals are included and mentioned numerous times in the evidence obtained by The Washington Post:

In August 2009, for example, Paul Sparling, the Cincinnati Bengals’ head trainer, wrote in an email: “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!”

Per the article, a Bengals trainer said he’s also aware of teams that dispense 90 or more Vicodin pills per game. That would be about two pills per player on the active gameday roster.

But, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy is claiming the allegations from the court filing “are meritless and the league and its clubs will continue to vigorously defend these claims.”

“The NFL clubs and their medical staffs are all in compliance with the Controlled Substances Act,” McCarthy said in an email. “. . . The NFL clubs and their medical staffs continue to put the health and safety of our players first, providing all NFL players with the highest quality medical care. Any claim or suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong.”

More than 1,800 former NFL players are being represented by the lawsuit, with clais that the players suffer long-term organ and joint damage, among other maladies, as a result of improper and deceptive drug distribution practices by NFL teams.

For some shocking examples, the article cites that in 2012, the average NFL team prescribed nearly 5,777 doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and 2,213 doses of controlled medications to its players. Vicodin and Toradol injections are among the cited drugs that were abused.

The Vikings, Steelers, Bills (whose trained admitted under oath to giving players injections and prescription medicines without educating them on the drugs and side effects), Packers, Chiefs, Titans, Chargers, Cowboys, Lions and Bengals are among the teams whose actions are mentioned in the court filings.

In a November 2010 email, Sparling, the Bengals’ trainer, wrote to his counterpart with the Detroit Lions, complaining about the new program. “Until the new [program] is actually in effect,” he said, “we will continue to do as we have done for the past 42 years. . . . I sure would love to know who blew up the system that worked all these years.”

That new program was the Controlled Substances Act, which forced the NFL to create the “visiting team medical liaison program”. Per The Washington Post:

The league didn’t bring teams into compliance until 2015, when it instituted the “visiting team medical liaison program,” which allows team physicians to use local doctors to prescribe and distribute controlled substances while on the road. The new program called for a stark departure in the way drugs were administered before, during and after games — and was met with resistance.

All 32 NFL teams are being sued (and have specific allegations against them) and at least 11 team and league medical officials have been interviewed as potential witnesses to date. The case is expected to go to trial in October.

You can read more details and evidence here.