This week a lawsuit was filed on behalf of former NFL players, including quarterback Jim McMahon, offensive lineman Keith Van Horne and Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent. The players assert that the league allowed for illegal narcotics as painkillers to be used on players with reckless effect, and with long-term negative consequences. This lawsuit follows on the heels of a previous lawsuit the players won concerning concussions that occurred to a great number of players leading to long-term health impairment.
Confusion over drugs in the NFL
The NFL has sent a mixed message for years when it comes to drugs, especially as this applies to pain, performance, and recreation drugs. Performance drugs are outlawed, yet it doesn’t seem like it’s been very hard for countless players over the years to use them (many have spoken out in the past about their usage). One might cynically suspect the NFL hasn’t been too tough on performance drugs as they create bigger, faster, stronger players — exactly what the typical NFL fan wants to see. Sadly, while the league has turned a blind eye to the steroid abuse over the years, former users have paid the price, some even dying at young ages.
Recreation drugs, like marijuana, offer no performance advantage whatsoever — and in some states marijuana is even legal — yet the NFL continues to crack down hard on players who are caught, like Josh Gordon of the Browns. This is ironic to many people for many different reasons, yet the NFL has seemingly decided to come down harder on these drugs than any others.
Prescription drugs, including pain pills and even many of the psychotropic drugs being used for ADHD today, seem to be OK, tolerate, or even encouraged (the players suing the league state this). The dangers of these medications are well documented, including a high addiction rate and even suicidal ideation for many of the anti-depressants being prescribed, yet the league doesn’t seem to have a problem with this drug category.
So what we can surmise from all of this is that performance drugs are outlawed, but maybe not watched over very closely. Prescription pills are OK, and even encouraged if they allow players to stay on the field (even though the dangers of these drugs are very well known). Recreation drugs, while not providing any athletic benefit and some even now legal, are still banned with very stiff penalties for players who violate the league policies. Does all this sound right to you? Does it make sense? And do the players have a right to sue the league for providing pain pills to them at the cost of long-term pain and suffering? These does appear to be a lot of inconsistencies with respect to the current NFL drug bylaws, and if the players win their current suit against the league for allowing players to become addicted to pain pills, there could be another big black eye for the league in the near future.