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Marcellus Wiley joins lawsuit against NFL over prescription drugs

TV personality Marcellus Wiley and Knicks player J.R.

TV personality Marcellus Wiley and Knicks player J.R. Smith arrives at the 2012 ESPY Awards. (July 11, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Former Chargers linebacker Marcellus Wiley, who said he experienced partial kidney failure as a result of medication he took after being misdiagnosed with a groin injury during his NFL career, has joined  a lawsuit against the league alleging a culture that put profits ahead of players’ health.

Wiley, a prominent ESPN personality who had been outspoken about the lawsuit when it was initially filed two weeks ago, joins more than 750 other players who have joined a lawsuit that was initially filed two weeks ago by eight former players, including former Bears stars Jim McMahon and Richard Dent.

According to a release from the law firm of Namanny, Byrne and Owens of Lake Forest, Calif., which is representing Wiley, the former defensive end was diagnosed by team physician Dr. Stephen Chao with a groin sprain while playing with the Chargers. Wiley said he received multiple injections in order to play, but still experienced pain after the season.

After seeking a second opinion, Wiley was told he had a severely torn abdominal wall, which the independent physician – who was not named – called “the worst I have ever seen.” Wiley underwent surgery for the injury. Last April, Wiley, 39, was hospitalized and diagnosed with partial renal failure and lost half of his kidney function, according to the release. Wiley’s kidney damage was “caused by years of dangerous over-medication and cocktailing of prescription drugs by NFL trainers and doctors-especially harmful to a player they knew had asthma.”

“I am joining this case to stand up for what I believe was a terrible injustice to me and my fellow teammates,” Wiley said, according to the release. “I cannot sit silently by and let the NFL decimate another generation of healthy young athletes.”

Wiley is an important voice for the lawsuit, especially given his platform at ESPN, where he appears regularly on SportsNation and other programs at the network. He has been outspoken on the issue, and will continue to draw attention to the lawsuit.

The NFL has not commented on the suit brought by the former players. 

"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 ESPN. "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," he added, "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."

Chao stepped down as San Diego's team physician in June 2013, after the NFL Players Association called for him to be replaced. An independent panel cleared Chao.In April, Chao was placed on probation by the Medical Board of California. He has been accused of committing gross negligence, repeated negligent acts and acts of dishonesty or corruption. Chao was also found liable of malpractice in 2012 in a case involving a regular patient (not a Chargers player) with a judgment of nearly $5.2 million. 

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