- The Washington Times
Friday, August 19, 2022

Former Washington trainer Ryan Vermillion entered a deferred prosecution agreement Friday with the federal government for illegally distributing painkillers to players.

Under the agreement, Vermillion will be under probation for the next 12 months and avoids federal prosecution unless he breaches the terms. He must also adhere to certain conditions of the agreement, such as submitting to drug tests and making an effort to find full-time employment. Vermillion, who has to pay a $10,000 fine within eight months, agreed to not “engage in or seek any employment” as a trainer for a sports team over the duration of the term.

According to the government’s criminal information filing, Vermillion unlawfully acquired and obtained possession of oxycodone by “misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception and subterfuge.”

Vermillion appeared in court almost 11 months after the Drug Enforcement Administration raided his home and the team’s facility amid an investigation into Washington’s former trainer. Appearing in front of Judge Claude M. Hilton in Alexandria, Vermillion wore a sports coat and slacks as he acknowledged the agreement and the case’s statement of facts.

Last October, the Commanders, then known as the Washington Football Team, placed Vermillion on paid administrative leave upon learning of the DEA’s probe. Vermillion was one of coach Ron Rivera’s first hires upon coming to Washington in 2020 as the pair worked nine years together in Carolina. The team hired Al Bellamy to fill Vermillion’s role as head trainer in April after using a number of people to help get through the season.

Rivera said in a statement Friday that Vermillion’s employment with the team has been terminated. The NFL also suspended Vermillion indefinitely, with the condition that he can apply for reinstatement after one year.

“The situation is unfortunate and although it resulted in no criminal charges, it was necessary to move forward in a different direction,” Rivera said. “I want to emphasize that the U.S. Government confirmed from the outset that it viewed the organization as a witness, and not as a subject or target of the investigation.

“We cooperated fully with federal investigators, and we will continue to cooperate with any supplemental League and NFLPA inquiry.”

According to court documents, the DEA found that Vermillion illegally distributed or obtained painkillers for at least seven different players. For example, when “Player D” sustained an injury during a home game, Vermillion gave the player “non-controlled medication” so that he could return to the game and distributed a “small quantity of oxycodone” to the player in the locker room afterward despite no prescription being issued.

In other instances, the trainer asked one of the team’s doctors to write a prescription for 10 oxycodone pills for a player — only to keep them for a private stash in case another player was injured. Vermillion also had another doctor refill a player’s prescription for 20 pills after he said the player’s significant other had lost or misplaced the prescription, a claim the government said did not happen.

Vermillion, according to the documents, would bring prescription medicines to road games to give to players — violating state laws and NFL procedure. He would also hand out painkillers before prescriptions were filled, and in Player B’s case, the former trainer gave the athlete prescribed oxycodone at the start of each rehabilitation session when the player was working his way back from surgery.

When the DEA raided the team’s facility in October 2021, agents found “a variety of different prescription drugs” in a locked medicine cabinet inside the team’s medical office — including at least one bottle that had been prescribed to a player no longer on the team.

“Vermillion determined that the athletic training staff should give the player only a portion of their prescription and hold onto the remaining pills at the INOVA Center,” the government’s statement of facts reads. “Vermillion made this determination based on his judgment that certain players were too immature or irresponsible to take custody of their own prescriptions.”

Federal law states anyone other than doctors and nurse practitioners cannot hand out prescription drugs.

Barry Coburn, Vermillion’s attorney, declined to comment coming out of court, as did assistant U.S. attorney Katherine E. Rumbaugh.

Shortly after the agreement, the NFL and the NFLPA said in a statement that it was launching a joint investigation was being launched to determine whether the Commanders complied with the league’s prescription drug monitoring program.

“The NFL also will require the Commanders medical and training staff to attend additional training regarding obligations under federal and state law and the collective bargaining agreement,” the NFL and NFLPA said.

The parties said the Commanders pledged their “full support” to cooperate.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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