Painkiller probe: DEA agents conduct surprise NFL team inspections
A man taking a pill (Shutterstock)

US federal agents conducted surprise inspections of National Football League team doctors and trainers on Sunday as part of an ongoing probe into painkiller drug abuse, the US media reported on Sunday.

The inspections included questioning and bag searches of medical staff by the Drug Enforcement Administration in co-operation with the Transportation Security Administration.

DEA officials were expected to question a half dozen teams on Sunday, including the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, The Washington Post reported. Some of the searches were conducted at US airports.

"The DEA has a responsibility under the Controlled Substances Act to ensure that registrants who possess, prescribe and dispense control substances are following the law," DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told The Post.

No arrests were expected to come from Sunday's searches as Payne described them as being "administrative." DEA officials also did not issue any search warrants.

The DEA is looking into abuse of prescription drugs in NFL locker rooms in the wake of a federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco on May 20 by eight former players, including Chicago Bears stars Richard Dent and Jim McMahon.

Investigators want to know how NFL trainers and team physicians obtained and distributed prescription drugs such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin.

Lawyers claim in the lawsuit the drugs given to players were illegally obtained and administered to get them back on the field faster. Some drugs masked the pain, creating long-term health issues with no warning of such risks, they said.

The Post said the probe is also looking into the possible dispensing of drugs by trainers instead of team doctors and the distribution of drugs without prescriptions.

Federal law also makes it illegal for team doctors to distribute prescription drugs outside of the geographic boundaries of their practice.