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NFLPA grievance against NFL alleges CBA violations over prescription painkillers

The 21-page grievance alleges the league was aware of teams violating terms of the CBA, but failed to respond.

San Diego Chargers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL on Monday, alleging violations of the collective bargaining agreement because of overprescription of painkillers.

The grievance alleges “the NFL and clubs have ‘disregarded ... explicit CBA requirements as they apply to the proper, legal, medically ethical prescription, dispensing, and transportation of prescription painkillers.’”

It is also claimed that the NFL knew of violations by medical personnel relating to painkillers, and did not respond in a reasonable time. It says this because of two documents the NFLPA wrote to the NFL during April to make their concerns known.

In one of the NFLPA’s April submissions, they list club medical personnel confessions, which include the Falcons, Vikings, Bills, Bengals, and Steelers.

Under the Bills doctors’ admission, which the NFLPA has listed in the document, it states that players were not informed of health risks with regards to mixing medications:

Indeed, Dr. Marzo (Bills’ doctor) testified that, even after being informed that they could not travel with controlled substances in 2011, as late as 2014, he would still do so and administer that drug to a player.

Club doctors and trainers do not inform players of the health risks associated with mixing medications in the volume and manner they are doing (referred to as “cocktailing”). These dangers are increased when the doctors and trainers know the Medications are often being mixed with club-provided alcohol (e.g., Mr. Carpenter testified that beer would be waiting for players on the steps leading to their planes after games).

In the Bengals personnel’s admission, an email from their head trainer shows that the team was hoping to keeping NFL “pill counters” from knowing what was being done:

In an e-mail dated August 24, 2009, Bengals head trainer Paul Sparling writes: “I trust all is well with your and Gtown. 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 Steelers medical personnel admission pertained to not just overprescription, but also allegedly had “T Trains” where players lined up for Toradol injections before games:

Dr. Yates testified that a majority of Clubs as of 2010 had trainers controlling and handling prescription medications and controlled substances when they should not have.

Dr. Yates testified that even last season, he witnessed players lining up for the “T Train,” – Toradol injections before a game – something that had been occurring with the Steelers for at least the previous 15 years.

NFLPA general counsel Tom DePaso lists seven items of relief the organization would like from the Arbitrator if the NFL denies the grievance, including teams terminating physicians and medical personnel who violated their obligations to players.

And in case you were wondering, DeflateGate still won’t die. It was mentioned by DePaso that the NFL took a rather hard stance on the scandal, and should do the same with regards to player health.

“Having recently punished the New England Patriots to the tune of forfeiting first-and fourth-round draft picks plus a $1 million fine for alleged conduct relating to taking a tiny amount of air out of footballs, it is incomprehensible that the League has taken no action whatsoever against Clubs to redress and incentivize compliance with their Article 39 obligations towards the health and safety of NFL players.”

In a lawsuit by more than 1,800 former NFL players that was unsurfaced in March, they allege that teams improperly distributed and administered painkillers, which helped lead to the grievance.