250 players join painkillers lawsuit against NFL

Buffalo Bills defensive end Marcellus Wiley sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young early...

Buffalo Bills defensive end Marcellus Wiley sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young early in the third quarter of a 2009 NFL game. (Reuters)

The Sports Xchange

, Last Updated: 11:22 PM ET

A second wave of former players, including Pro Bowl defensive Marcellus Wiley, were added to a class-action lawsuit against the NFL that alleges illegal use of prescription painkillers in an attempt to keep them on the field and play through injuries.

The Associated Press first reported the story on Wednesday.

"The first thing people ask is, knowing what happened, would you do it again?" Wiley, currently an ESPN analyst, told the AP. "No. No I wouldn't."

The lawsuit was originally filed May 20 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and amended Wednesday to add 250 more players, bringing the total to 750 plaintiffs.

Wiley, who played in Buffalo, San Diego, Dallas and Jacksonville from 1997-2006, is the ninth player identified by name.

Others previously named include former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon and teammates Richard Dent, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end, and Keith Van Horne, an offensive lineman.

The former players stated in the suit that the drugs were given and acquired illegally and the players were not warned of the potential hazards of taking them. Their claim also states that the painkillers were given to help the players return from injuries faster and to maximize the league's profits.

Six of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including McMahon and Van Horne, were also parties to the concussion-related class-action lawsuit filed against the NFL less than a year ago. The NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle that case -- without acknowledging it concealed the risks of concussions from former players. A federal judge has yet to approve the settlement, expressing concern the amount is too small.

According to the AP, Wiley, 39, was not part of the concussion lawsuit, but decided to join former players in this one after suffering partial renal failure in April, despite no history of kidney problems. Wiley said he took "multiple injections" of painkillers over the course of a season to cope with an injury that then-San Diego team physician Dr. Steven Chao diagnosed as severe groin sprain. After the season, an independent doctor diagnosed a torn abdominal wall that required surgery.

"You can't walk into a doctor's office and say, "Give me this, give me that, just to get through the day.' Somebody would shut the place down," Wiley said in a telephone interview with the AP. "But that's what was going on in the NFL. It's easy to get mesmerized. I won't deny that; there's this 'play through-the-pain, fall-on-the-sword' culture, and somebody in line ready to step up and take your place ...

"And the next question when people hear about this stuff is 'where's the personal responsibility?' Well, I'm not a medical doctor, but I did take the word of a medical doctor who took an oath to get me through not just one game, or one season, but a lifetime. Meanwhile, he's getting paid by how many bodies he gets out on the field."

Some former players claimed in the suit that they became addicted to the drugs after they retired from football.

"I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers -- you name it -- while in the NFL," said former receiver J.D. Hill, who played in the 1970s. "I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless. Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL."

McMahon stated in the lawsuit that he was given medications and was told to keep playing through a broken neck and ankle. He also contends that he became addicted to the drugs.

"The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players' long-term health in its obsession to return them to play," said Steven Silverman, the attorney for the players.


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