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Retired NFL Players Claim League Illegally Used Drugs to Cover Up Injuries

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Former NFL players are suing the league for allegedly giving them risky narcotics to cover up pain from injuries sustained while playing football, leading to medical problems later in life.

According to a suit filed Tuesday, the NFL wanted to speed up the recovery time of injured players in order to get them back on the field, attract fans and therefore maximize profits, the Associated Press reports.

The eight players named in the complaint claim the NFL acquired and distributed the drugs illegally, without obtaining prescriptions or telling players about possible side effects. Some, like former Chicago Bears quarterback and Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon, even claim that NFL doctors did not tell them about injuries such as broken bones and rather just gave them pills to hide the pain. Others say they became addicted to painkillers after years of being fed pills by the league.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeks unspecified financial damages and a NFL-funded program to test and monitor players on medication to prevent addiction. Three of the eight players were members of the Super Bowl winning 1985 Chicago Bears team: Hall of Famer Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne, as well as McMahon. Lawyers are seeking class action status, and say 500 other former players have signed on to the suit.

Six of the complainants were also named in a recent lawsuit that accused the league of concealing known risks of concussions that was settled for $765 million, with no blame assessed.


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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com