NFL abuse of painkillers and other drugs described in court
Mentions the Vikings.
National Football League teams violated federal laws governing prescription drugs, disregarded guidance from the Drug Enforcement Administration on how to store, track, transport and distribute controlled substances, and plied their players with powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatories each season, according to sealed court documents contained in a federal lawsuit filed by former players.
At times, team medical staff displayed a cavalier attitude toward federal guidelines that govern dispensing medicine. 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!”
The Bengals did not make Sparling available for comment or respond to questions about his 2010 email.
The filing likens painkillers to performance-enhancing drugs and says while players often felt compelled to use them to contribute to their teams, medical staffs felt pressured to administer them to remain competitive. A February 2006 memo included in the court filing was from the Minnesota Vikings’ head trainer, Eric Sugarman. Writing to then-head coach Brad Childress and the team’s vice president for operations, the trainer said he had met for three hours with team physician David Fischer and lamented that the Vikings were not regularly using a powerful painkiller called Toradol, as other teams were.
“I expressed my concern that [the Vikings] are at a competitive disadvantage. . . . I feel very strongly about this point,” he wrote. “. . . I feel that Dr. Fischer is beginning to see my point of view on many issues. I also feel he is willing to change to improve.”
The Vikings did not respond to requests for comment or to make Sugarman or Fischer available.