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DEA Agents Conduct Surprise Inspections Of NFL Teams

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency conducted surprise inspections of the staff of at least three National Football League teams on Sunday.

CNN reports:

"The DEA questioned the medical and training staffs of the San Francisco 49ers following the team's 16-10 victory at the New York Giants, agency spokesman Rusty Payne told CNN.

"The 49ers cooperated with the 'random inspection' at MetLife Stadium, the team's director of communications, Bob Lange, said. The team departed the stadium as scheduled, he added.

"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced via Twitter that the DEA 'checked in' with the team at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. After a five-minute delay, the team proceeded to its plane without incident, the team said."

The Washington Post reports the staff of the Seattle Seahawks was inspected following the team's game in Kansas City.

The inspections are related to a lawsuit that claimed NFL medical staff keep players on the field by handing out powerful and addictive narcotics without prescriptions.

The Post explains:

"Federal law prohibits anyone but a physician or nurse practitioner from distributing prescription drugs, and they must meet myriad regulations for acquiring, storing, labeling and transporting them. It is also illegal for a physician to distribute prescription drugs outside of his geographic area of practice. And it is illegal for trainers to dispense or even handle controlled substances in any way.

"DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed the existence of the investigation and said it was triggered by a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in May by more than 1,300 retired NFL players. In the suit, they allege that NFL medical staffs regularly violate federal and state laws in plying their teams with powerful addictive narcotics such as Percocet and Percodan, sleeping pills such as Ambien and the non-addictive painkiller Toradol to help them play through injuries on game days."

Steve Silverman, an attorney for the former players who filed suit, told The Associated Press that the raid is "unprecedented."

"I trust the evidence reviewed and validated leading up to this action was substantial and compelling," Silverman said.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the AP the teams cooperated with the DEA and that the league had "no information to indicate that irregularities were found."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.