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E&C Democratic Leaders Request Information from NFL & DEA On Decades Long Illegal RX & Pain Medication Use

Mar 15, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Four Energy and Commerce Committee Democratic leaders today requested answers from the National Football League (NFL) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regarding troubling allegations, made public in a March 9th Washington Post article, that personnel of NFL teams, including doctors and trainers, violated various federal laws for decades involving the use and transport of controlled substances and other prescription drugs. 

Full Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent separate letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg requesting the information.

“We are writing to request additional information regarding troubling allegations that personnel of National Football League (NFL) teams violated various federal laws governing prescription drugs, and administered powerful narcotics and pain medications without adequately disclosing the risks and side effects to their players,” the four lawmakers wrote in their letter to Commissioner Goodell.  “These allegations suggest a troubling lack of respect for the laws governing the handling of controlled substances, and raise questions about the League’s dedication to the health and safety of its players.”

As part of its investigation, the Washington Post cites sealed court documents filed in a federal lawsuit against all 32 NFL teams on behalf of 1,800 former NFL players.  According to the report, the suit alleges the former players have suffered long-term joint and organ damage due to improper drug prescribing and drug administration by NFL team employees, including doctors and trainers.  Citing quotes from depositions, the newspaper reports that team doctors admitted to violating “one or more” federal drug laws and regulations.

According to the Washington Post, prescription and distribution practices of controlled substances were sufficiently problematic to draw the attention of the DEA.  The report indicates the NFL invited the DEA to meet with team medical staffs, and DEA officials provided a presentation to league physicians on laws governing the handling of controlled substances.  DEA also did step up enforcement after providing the NFL guidance in relation to controlled substances through raids on NFL traveling teams.  While the Washington Post reports that the DEA’s October 2014 raids found no teams were traveling with controlled substances, it also reports that a DEA employee tipped off NFL teams in advance of the raids.

As part of their request, the Democratic Committee leaders are seeking answers to several questions from the NFL including:

  • Did non-physician trainers at any time administer or dispense Toradol or any controlled substance to former or current NFL players?
  • In cases in which prescription medicines were administered or dispensed, were NFL players provided with all information regarding the drug(s) they were given, including dosage amounts, possible side effects, and reasons for receiving the drug(s)? 
  • Did the NFL maintain records of all prescription drugs—including any controlled substances—administered or dispensed to each NFL player?  If so, whose job was it to collect those records, and are they still in the NFL’s possession?
  • What DEA guidance did the NFL receive regarding the storage, transport, and distribution of controlled substances, and has the NFL followed all DEA guidance?  Please also provide a list and timeline of subsequent actions taken by NFL officials in response to all DEA guidance.    

The Democratic leaders also asked the DEA to provide answers to, among others, the following questions:

  • What registration requirements under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) apply to NFL medical personnel, and how does the DEA ensure such personnel comply with the requirements under the CSA, including when their teams travel?  What recordkeeping requirements under the CSA apply to NFL medical personnel, including trainers, and how does the DEA ensure such personnel comply with these requirements?
  • Did the DEA provide guidance to the league or its member teams on how to store, track, transport, and distribute controlled substances?  If so, what guidance was provided?
  • Provide additional information about the surprise raids the Post reports were conducted in October 2014, including any additional details about those investigations.

A copy of the letter to the NFL is available here.

A copy of the letter to the DEA is available here.