On the eve of Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons’ attention is split between the courtroom and the field.
According to a recent report from the Associated Press, an email chain dating back to 2010 that included Falcons owner Arthur Blank, former head trainer Marty Lauzon, president Rich McKay and general manager Thomas Dimitroff among others brought up an issue discovered during an outside agency’s review – the team reportedly spent $81,000 on prescription medications for their players in 2009 alone, just about three times as much as the average team spent.
The email chain was entered into the court record on Thursday, January 26 in connection with the class-action lawsuit proposed by over 1,800 retired NFL players. In the proposed lawsuit, the former players claimed that the training and medical staffs on their teams encouraged them to abuse painkillers in order to continue playing without taking into consideration the dangerous effects it could have on their long-term health. It also alleges that team trainers improperly distributed those drugs, and that their teams failed to keep or store accurate records of the drugs.
When Dimitroff was asked about the emails earlier this week, he said:
“That’s being litigated now. That’s not something we’re going discuss right now. When the time is right, we’ll readdress that.”
The email chain is just one of thousands of similar documents complied during the discovery process that the retired players’ attorneys want to enter into the record. According to the AP report, the timing of the release of the Falcons’ emails is purely coincidental.
The review was conducted by SportPharm, which was hired by the NFL to review how all 32 teams bought, dispensed and tracked the medications they gave to players. In the emails, Lauzon commented on SportPharm’s assessment that the team’s practices surrounding how they dispensed prescription painkillers ran the risk of creating a “culture of dependency.”
“Within the first days on the job, I was informed that we barely missed a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) investigation because of improper billing issues,” he said in an email to Dimitroff.
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