DEA stages surprise inspections of visiting NFL teams' painkiller use

The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating claims of inappropriate distribution of painkillers by NFL teams, following a recent lawsuit filed by former NFL players, and have agents on site at several NFL stadiums Sunday to question team doctors and trainers, according to a law enforcement source.

Those interviews and searches were being conducted following Week 11 games -- at MetLife Stadium where the 49ers were the visiting team and with the visiting Buccaneers following their win over the Redskins -- according to the source, as well as in several other locations, including potentially some where games have not yet kicked off or are in progress.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed that DEA personnel were questioning NFL medical personnel Sunday after the conclusion of games. He declined to reveal specifics of the investigation but said, "DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the CSA."

The Buccaneers announced on Twitter that their inspection was completed at the airport following the game:

DEA agents were on site, without notice, to approach the medical staffs of the visiting teams at games and ensure all laws pertaining to the controlled substances are being followed as per the Controlled Substances Act. There are concerns, the source said, teams are distributing painkillers without prescriptions, which is why the DEA officials are asking teams for documentations for prescriptions, checking that proper records are being kept of the distribution of painkillers by doctors and trainers and also investigating whether those medical teams are registered to prescribe and administer controlled substances in the state in which their team is playing.

Per the source, the DEA has reason to believe the CSA is not being adhered to by NFL medical staffs, including treating players outside their "registered location," as well as not fully documenting the use of painkillers by all players and following all requirements of the Controlled Substances Act. With that in mind, the DEA agents are requesting permission to inspect the medical bags of prescriptions drugs, doing so in some instances at the stadiums while the teams were going through Transportation Safety Administration screening in order to get on charter flights home.

Team doctors and trainers were questioned at MetLife Sunday.
Team doctors and trainers were questioned at MetLife on Sunday. (Getty Images)

The DEA is compelled to thoroughly investigate potential charges, as they enforce the CSA, and, with prescription drug use escalating in the United States, they take these matters quite seriously. Doctors, and trainers, are held to an extremely high standard, and while this investigation is administrative and not criminal in nature, and no arrests will be made, the source said any impropriety will be documented. It was unclear what the next step would be should the DEA determine laws were being broken.

Payne said he "would not speculate on future action with regard to DEA registrants under investigation."

The civil suit by former NFL players was filed in a federal court in Northern California in May of 2013, representing a class of 1,300 former NFL players who claimed the league "intentionally, recklessly and negligently" created a culture of drug misuse through its widespread distribution of painkillers and prescription drugs. While the investigation has been going on quietly for months, Sunday marks the first time agents were actively pursuing information on-site at NFL games.  

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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