Not That You Asked

Of drugs and sports

The news has been bristling lately with items about what may, or may not, have been pre-emptive strikes aimed at rooting out a supply chain for esoteric drugs linked — however obliquely — to our hallowed professional sports franchises, the Chargers and the Padres.
San Diego appears to be one of the first such sports “markets” targeted for these probes by federal investigators (the other being New Orleans, where published reports raised questions of whether pharmaceuticals may have had the Saints marching to a much more brisk beat than usual en route to their first-ever Super Bowl triumph last February).
Accounts of affidavits filed in federal court here suggest that the arrest in May in Orange County of now-former Charger safety Kevin Ellison for alleged possession of 100 Vicodin
pills sparked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to act, albeit in what a DEA spokesperson called a fact-finding mission.
Whatever the justification, the drug enforcers obtained warrants from a U.S. District Court judge to execute so-called administrative inspections and dig into the records of Chargers and Padres team doctors, as well as a pharmacy and lab located right here in North County.
There have been no arrests. Neither are administrative charges, criminal charges or indictments pending. But allegations in DEA affidavits that have come to light are disconcerting, if you’ll pardon the euphemism.
The federal investigators allege that the Chargers team physician, David Chao, wrote 108 prescriptions for himself and for “inanimate entities” over the past two years, and some were filled by RSF, a pharmacy and specialized drug lab that operated out of a suite in a business park on La Costa Meadows Drive in San Marcos.
One Rx was written for the “Blue Box Chargers,” whatever that means, and six more for “San Diego Chargers.” Applying for warrants, the DEA deemed that meant “suspicious and unlawful” activity may have taken place.
Say it’s so that the great Padres performance so far this year and the wondrous 13-3 regular season record posted by the Bolts in 2009 had more to do with hard work, team spirit, heads-up play and natural ability than with pharmaceutical enhancements.
A published report about documents seized at the San Marcos pharmacy raises an even more shrill alarm. According to the Union-Tribune, the DEA turned up no less than 14 binders there labeled not only for professional sports — the NFL, the National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association and minor league baseball among them — but also marked “college #3,” “College/University” and “Team USA,” the latter being our Olympic athletes.
My inner anxiety-riddled neurotic wonders why an undergraduate with a passion, say, for football and a goal of starring in the National Football League would fail to seek out any seeming miracle elixir to achieve his aims, especially if the
team physician thought it would help.
The player would be even more inclined toward a pharmaceutical performance boost when he sees that others are doing it all around him to gain whatever edge they can get to compete at a lofty level like the NFL.
It’s still enough to make most anyone queasy at the prospect that college and university athletes may be indulging in better living through chemistry, and that such drug use might even be countenanced by coaches and athletic departments. Help my inner Pollyanna be convinced that nothing remotely like this happens at the high schools.
It’s been some 25 years now since the Pittsburgh Pirates made headlines because players were rampantly snorting cocaine during the season. Their manager, Chuck Tanner, was quoted as saying he knew nothing about it. Was it just coincidence that in 1985, the year the scandal broke, the Pirates posted the worst record in all of major league baseball?
Please say it ain’t so, all of it; all of the above.