BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For the first time, new documents reveal the widespread use of painkillers in the NFL, alleging teams skirted federal law for dispensing powerful drugs.
The revelations are part of a lawsuit former players filed against the league and individual teams, including the Ravens.
The allegations in court documents are coming from the teams themselves, from interviews with doctors and trainers showing the pressure to use powerful drugs to stay competitive. Players say this caused lasting health problems.
Documents contained in a federal lawsuit filed against the NFL show the league may have violated federal regulations when providing powerful prescription painkillers and other drugs to players.
They reveal the shocking number of doses being handed out: 8,000 during the 2012 season — roughly seven for every player.
“Most people trust their doctors,” says Sally Jenkins with the Washington Post.
“NFL doctors are in a very strange position, they’re in direct pay of the team, rather than the patient,” she says.
Baltimore attorney Steve Silverman represents players suing the league.
“There’s no workplace in America that pumps they’re employees full of narcotics in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. Physicians around the country have been blowing up all day. This is unbelievable conduct by our fellow professionals,” he says.
Several former Baltimore Ravens have spoken about problem, including Chuck Evans, whose widow is part of the lawsuit. Evans died of heart failure at age 41.
“I’ve taken Vicodin. I’ve taken oxycodone. Those pills, they changed who I was during the time that I took them,” says former Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe.
Monroe wrote about players lining up in an office at M&T Bank Stadium to take the potent drug Toradol. Players for other teams describe the same thing.
“it’s almost like a cattle call when you have 20-25 guys, standing with your pants half down, waiting in line for a doctor with a 100 different syringes lined up,” says Jeremy Newberry, Former lineman for the 49ers and Oakland Raiders.
“The NFL would like everyone to think that painkiller abuse is something that’s a thing of the past, that it was part of the wild west of the 1960s, and the main thing that the material in this lawsuit makes clear is that this is something that they’re still grappling with,” says Jenkins.
WJZ asked Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome about the lawsuit Friday
“Number one, I’m not aware of the lawsuit, but I have no reaction at all,” he says.
The NFL denies all the claims in the lawsuit. They say the investigation is meritless and that they will vigorously defend themselves in court.
The league says it has invited the DEA to meet with doctors and lawyers representing the 32 teams to make sure they are in compliance.