[caption id="attachment_33952" align="aligncenter" width="620"]Reuters  Reuters [/caption]

The Drug Enforcement Agency is reportedly investigating the National Football League thanks to revelations exposed as part of a major civil lawsuit filed by more than 700 former players against the league.

The litigation alleges that the named players routinely received prescription medications without ever having to see a doctor. Further, the suit claims many players were encouraged to ingest pills or undergo injections both before and after games.

Consequently, some of the plaintiffs allege that they became addicts and/or suffered from serious side effects due to the unauthorized treatment. One of the plaintiffs is former Pro Bowler and current ESPN analyst Marcellus Wiley.

"You can't walk into a doctor's office and say, 'Give me this, give me that, just to get through the day.' Somebody would shut the place down," Wiley said in June. "But that's what was going on in the NFL. It's easy to get mesmerized. I won't deny that; there's this 'play through-the-pain, fall-on-the-sword' culture, and somebody in line ready to step up and take your place."

The individuals named in the civil lawsuit as plaintiffs are likely only the tip of the iceberg in the NFL, and the lawyer handling the case points out that many other players can verify the complaint he filed on behalf of his clients.

"The allegations in our lawsuit, that the NFL has violated state and federal drug laws, have been confirmed by over 1,300 former NFL players,” attorney Steve Silverman said. “We are pleased to learn that the DEA and United States Department of Justice are also taking our clients' allegations seriously and are actively protecting the welfare of NFL players."

The leaking of the pending DEA investigation seems to indicate that some of the same infractions outlined in the civil case are still going on behind the scenes today. Players are routinely tested for illegal drugs and performance enhancing drugs, but there is no established prescription drug testing protocol.

Already, multiple players are being forced to sit out of anywhere from two-to-four games next season due to PED or substance abuse issues. Yet, players who may be treating themselves with illegally acquired prescription drugs are too often allowed to fly under the radar.

As is often the case in crackdowns, the prohibited behavior will only be relegated to the shadows and kept more secret in the future as the league tries to initiate checks and balances to prevent prescription abuse.

Yet, should the league simply ignore or deny the suit's allegations, it will only give rise to similar civil actions in the future.

The DEA will have to dig very deep and upset a historical trend if they hope to have any success in this investigation. At the same time, such an inquiry is long overdue, and it might be a good idea to expand the probe to include all major professional sports in the United States.

Such an expansion might actually end up happening through the natural course of the NFL investigation, as it is entirely possible that some of the doctors providing prescription medications to NFL personnel might also be supplying athletes from other sports.

Just like the major investigations and government probes into steroids revealed that athletes from a variety of sports were using some of the same labs and products, it's highly likely there are a few crooked physicians out there giving famous athletes whatever prescriptions they want.

It is obvious from looking at the civil lawsuit that sparked this DEA investigation that most players involved did not realize the magnitude of the potential damage they could do to themselves over the course of their careers. Painkillers in particular tend to numb both the body and the brain.

Winning at all costs is often stressed in all major professional sports, and the best athletes are simply expected to risk life and limb to compete at the highest levels. Consider the harsh treatment LeBron James faced after he came off the court with cramps during the most recent NBA playoffs.

There is so much pressure on these players, and it makes sense that many of them will turn to prescription treatments they were never prescribed in order to keep training and performing at the highest possible levels.

Eradicating or at least minimizing this problem before a player overdoses or before other sports leagues face major lawsuits over the same type of scenarios faced by the NFL plaintiffs is in the best interests of all involved.

At the very least, all pro sports should consider providing universal counseling to all players and personnel to educate them on the pitfalls of taking prescription drugs without consulting a doctor.

If the DEA develops no actionable information, this problem will only get worse over time.

The time to address this issue is now, because waiting too long may cost a ton of money down the line for other sports in addition to the NFL.

Even worse, waiting too long to face this crisis head on could someday cost a player his life.


Low price, available in multiple styles and colors!