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Teams would be wise to get rid of their drug lockers

Recently, an unnamed NFL trainer told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News that the unnamed NFL trainer’s team does not keep a supply of prescription medication in the facility.  Instead, prescriptions are delivered multiple times per day by a local pharmacy.

It’s unclear how many teams follow this approach and how many operate like the Saints, keeping a proverbial cookie jar of federally-regulated medications in the building.  Though the NFL has been generally tight-lipped regarding the civil lawsuit alleging that Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis tried to cover up the abuse and/or theft of Vicodin by multiple team employees, league spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that the NFL “conduct[s] regular audits of prescription medications dispensed through the club medical staffs.”  This implies that the maintenance of a supply of medications by the team isn’t a rare occurrence, but instead that it’s sufficiently commonplace to result in the league keeping close track of the cookies.

The potential flaw in that approach is obvious — the presence of the medications creates a temptation to abuse and/or steal them. 

Still, two former NFL team doctors have told Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the Saints “followed standard NFL practices” in maintaining an in-house stash of medications.  Dr. Pierce Scranton, former team doctor for the Seahawks and ex-president of the NFL Physician Society, shrugged at the possibility that the cookie jar will be raided.  “If a coach broke into a thing and stole it, that could happen anywhere,
” Scranton said.  “People are robbing drug stores all the time for
drugs.”

So, apparently, the fact that criminals routinely bust into Walgreen’s and burgle the medications means that the potential theft of drugs from a locker maintained in a team facility represents an acceptable risk for the convenience of having the drugs immediately available. 

Frankly, Dr. Scranton, your position makes no sense, especially since it doesn’t take into account the possibility that, as alleged in the lawsuit filed against the Saints, at least one employee who did not have a painful medical condition was being given amounts of Vicodin that would suggest abuse.

The more prudent practice is reflected by the unnamed trainer who spoke to Myers.  Surely, there’s a local pharmacy in each NFL city that gladly will supply the medications and deliver them as needed. 

The approach used by the Saints (and presumably others) also invites other irregularities.  For instance, we’ve heard from multiple sources that the Saints were (and possibly still are) obtaining their medications via a prescription made out generally to the team, and not to the individuals who are receiving the medications.  That’s a no-no for the doctor writing the prescriptions and the pharmacy that is filling them.

Bottom line?  The magnitude of medications taken by football players easily can desensitize teams to the realities — and legalities — of the process.  The smart teams will avoid the establishment of an in-house pharmacy or, at a minimum, ensure that the drug locker is regarded as off limits by those who may be inclined to make a midnight refrigerator run.  This means safeguarding the medications diligently, and dealing swiftly and harshly with those who improperly remove drugs from the locker.

The Saints allegedly have failed in this regard.  Even if the Saints are exonerated, it makes too much sense for them and other NFL franchises who opt for convenience when it comes to prescription medications to embrace inconvenience in the name of not leading the players, coaches, and other employees into avoidable temptation.

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27 Responses to “Teams would be wise to get rid of their drug lockers”
  1. ethan robert says: May 9, 2010 11:13 AM

    Just put some bogus ones in from time to time. Look the same as the others but make you turn yellow and crap your pants. That would solve the problem.

  2. 49erFanLivingInDallas says: May 9, 2010 11:19 AM

    I’m still curious as to how badly Sean Peyton was allegedly abusing said narcotics, anyone heard anything on that?

  3. Jon Evans says: May 9, 2010 11:33 AM

    one incident in the history of the league? I’m not going to look too much into it. People just overreact.

  4. .RebaTe says: May 9, 2010 11:37 AM

    “Instead, prescriptions are delivered multiple times per day by a local pharmacy.”
    / this is to handle all the gonorrhea cases in Cincy…

  5. Citizen Strange says: May 9, 2010 11:41 AM

    The Steelers have a Hurt Locker!
    GO STEELERS!

  6. oxycode30 says: May 9, 2010 11:51 AM

    Legalize and tax ALL drugs and let society move on.
    It’s really not that difficult.
    Regulating what an adult citizen ingests in order to alter his brain chemistry is about as anti-liberty as possible. Let us take a stand for personal freedoms and tell the nanny staters to MYOB.

  7. Treezs says: May 9, 2010 11:52 AM

    Almost no one takes Vicodin recreationally. People either hate taking it because it makes them feel wierd, or they wish they had an unlimited supply of it. There is no in between, and if all the truth is to come out mark my word we will discover that Payton takes probably around 20 a day of Norco or maybe a couple a day of Oxy.

  8. aDickRunsThisSite says: May 9, 2010 11:53 AM

    to be totally honest it seems ignorant as hell for teams to have narcotics on site. It can only lead to problems or the appearance of problems which is a bitch in itself. I think Roger who says he wants to keep the NFL’s image clean should Mandate that all narcotics be ordered and sent to the team from a league sanctioned pharmacy (walgreens cvs et all would qualify along with mom and pops, just have them registered with the league) on a case by case basis with each labeled for the corresponding player. then there is not even the appearance of something unsavory going on.

  9. Insomniac says: May 9, 2010 11:54 AM

    Even with the NFL auditing, the suit alleges that they were instructed to manipulate the logs so that it did not appear any drugs were missing. The numbers add up, but there can still be impropriety.
    I agree it is best to write a prescription and have it delivered to the player from a pharmacy.

  10. errk says: May 9, 2010 12:10 PM

    Even if the pharmacy dispensed individual prescriptions for each player, the opportunity for theft would still exist… they would just be stealing from individual prescriptions as opposed to a bulk bottle. Individual players are far less likely to keep track of the number of pills in their bottles (but far more likely to be upset if some go missing), so I feel that this could actually make things worse. If teams really do want to have a supply of opioid analgesics at the facility, switching to an automated dispensing machine (e.g. pyxis) would solve a lot of these issues. People that weren’t authorized to have access to the pills wouldn’t be able to get them (fingerprint access to the machine). Inventory counts would automatically be updated by the machine as people take pills out.

  11. malgorthewarrior says: May 9, 2010 12:10 PM

    They are football players, they get injured or physically hurt all the time.
    the thing ignored in this entire “story” is that any of those players can just go to their doctors and get them prescribed. the reason they have the drugs on site is because so many players get them everyday.
    i think it’s sad that that’s considered shady, but a team that has to have a pharmacy deliver them narcotics multiple times a day is fine.
    sorry, but it goes to show how arbitrary lines are with prescription drugs. no one is concerned with the players getting the drugs, it’s just how they get them.

  12. errk says: May 9, 2010 12:17 PM

    “the Saints were obtaining their medications via a prescription made out generally to the team… That’s a no-no for the doctor writing the prescriptions and the pharmacy that is filling them.”
    It is a no-no to actually fill them for “the team”. The doctor could be purchasing them against his DEA number, filling out a DEA 222 form each time he buys scheduled drugs. He is just using the pharmacy as a wholesaler (which is legal if they don’t sell more than a certain amount set by the DEA)

  13. ethan robert says: May 9, 2010 12:17 PM

    Most pharmacies now refuse to deliver drugs to NFL clubhouses, citing traffic jams at the facility, parking lot collisions, and other altercations with all the street dealers delivering non prescription drugs.

  14. Staubach says: May 9, 2010 12:21 PM

    I don’t think there is any problem with having a locked medicine locker at a team facility. This is standard procedure at many doctor’s offices, dentist’s offices, research facilities, etc.
    The REAL problem, that nobody seems to be talking about, is how did Vitt (allegedly) get a key? The doctors are responsible for maintaining the security of their medications, and they should lose their licenses or have them suspended for failing to do so.

  15. dafish says: May 9, 2010 12:31 PM

    Better yet and think about this one for a while.
    Wouldn’t it be better if the NFL assigned local medical staffs to the teams? Think auto racing. In IRL you have the safety crews that the IRL brings along to the various tracks. They know the drivers medical histories and how to treat and deal with the different types of injuries that are usually only common to auto racing. If the NFL did something like this then 1) you take the decision to bench a guy due to concussion out of the teams and players hands. 2) you monitor the drug consumption (on property of course)
    What say you?

  16. DoomsDayD75 says: May 9, 2010 12:31 PM

    So is there an actual victim here? Because if not then who gives a crap what these people do in their spare time. Pop vicatin, xanex, oxycodin, ambient, blow some lines of coke… or just be safe and smoke some weed. Do whatever the hell you want as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else.
    I really don’t care. Most NFL players come out of the league addicted to pain killers anyways so let them go to town.
    The only issue is that the coaches were stealing the meds, which is pretty dumb since I’m sure they all have good hook ups for prescription anyways. Hell you can find all that stuff and more walking down bourbon street anyways.

  17. Ilovefoolsball says: May 9, 2010 12:40 PM

    This non story is a joke.

  18. realitypolice says: May 9, 2010 12:42 PM

    Staubach says:
    May 9, 2010 12:21 PM
    I don’t think there is any problem with having a locked medicine locker at a team facility. This is standard procedure at many doctor’s offices, dentist’s offices, research facilities, etc.
    The REAL problem, that nobody seems to be talking about, is how did Vitt (allegedly) get a key?
    ==============================
    Ummmmm, yeah, that’s the problem. There is a pecking order in NFL franchises, and coach is way above medical staff. Medical staffs on NFL teams are constantly pressured in a variety of ways by “football” personnel.
    Do you think a lowly medical staffer is going to say no when a coach with Vitt’s stature, who may or may not have been acting on the orders/blessings of King Payton himself, asked for a key?
    This was my very first thought when I heard that the team was storing and distributing prescription drugs onsite: why? In this day of fears of increased liability, it doesn’t make sense to me for a team to take a chance like this. Let the players get prescriptions and go to a pharmacy (or have prescriptions delivered) like everyone else.

  19. edgy1957 says: May 9, 2010 12:45 PM

    This has been a long staning problem in professional sports. MLB had an even bigger problem with greenies, which were being dispensed by trainers like they were Flintstone chewables (I say had because they’re being tested for but don’t believe that for one moment that they’re not still being used).
    The only way to stop this is to take the drugs out of the facilities and then force those who need it to go to an NFL-run facility that is NOT beholding to any team and is required to keep track of what they’re giving the guys and flag them when they “lose” their prescriptions a little too much.

  20. cookiecrumbs says: May 9, 2010 1:00 PM

    Breaking news …. developing…. vicodin used like ibuprofen in NFL … more breaking news … Vikings blow a big game … updating … pft.com, once a good independent blog, now a corporate sellout. Good night now.

  21. Cubano says: May 9, 2010 1:13 PM

    Seriously, who really cares about this issue. Just as long as it’s not my fantasy guys all hopped up on something, preventing them from getting me points. I’m good. Also, I’d love to see all the kickers given these pills before games. Be pretty funny to see a guy run up on a kickoff and wiff.

  22. BenRoethlisburger says: May 9, 2010 1:40 PM

    @Cubano
    LOL – Charlie Brown

  23. Wukong says: May 9, 2010 2:42 PM

    I could swear that we’ve already gotten this exact same article at least once before….

  24. Throwback says: May 9, 2010 2:53 PM

    How would a team have a “proverbial cookie jar of federally-regulated medications in the building”? I thought drugs were prescribed to people for conditions?

  25. Ron says: May 9, 2010 4:52 PM

    DoomsDayD75 says: May 9, 2010 12:31 PM
    So is there an actual victim here? Because if not then who gives a crap what these people do in their spare time. Pop vicatin, xanex, oxycodin, ambient,
    DoomsDay
    Where does one find these drugs you mention?
    VICATIN
    XANEX
    OXYCODIN
    AMBIENT
    MAYBE SOME SORT OF INDIAN OR MEXICAN GENERIC VERSION????

  26. 49erFanLivingInDallas says: May 9, 2010 6:30 PM

    mexican vicodin is blue and tastes like tacos.

  27. dafish says: May 9, 2010 6:31 PM

    throwback.
    Teams have team doctors and trainers who can prescribe drugs as needed.

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