When many of us envision the peak of physical fitness, the first image that comes to mind is that of the professional athlete. After all, these are people who are literally paid to be the strongest and fastest among us. Surely they never have to worry about things like medical malpractice, right?
Wrong. The truth is that medical malpractice can affect anyone, regardless of stature, profession, or physical conditioning. In fact, because of the number of strain athletes place on their bodies, and the pressure to maximize their performance, they arguably run a higher risk of suffering from medical malpractice than many other people.
So why don’t we hear more about medical malpractice cases in professional sports? All too often, there is a veil of secrecy around what goes on behind the scenes in the athletic world. Sometimes it’s due to a misplaced sense of team unity. Other times, it’s a fear of reprisal or of the negative consequences speaking up could have for an athlete’s career.
Whatever the reason, it is only on rare occasions that athletes seem to raise their voices about behaviors they witnessed that quality as reckless or unethical treatment. These behaviors range from social snafus to very serious medical malpractice allegations, and their revelation has the potential to both reveal taboo happenings in the world of professional sports and also set the stage for more ethical and responsible treatment of athletes.
Here is the story of one National Hockey League player who spoke up about medical malpractice in major league sports.
1. Who is Involved
Robin Lehner is currently goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Lehner, who has had a twelve year career in the National Hockey League, and is a one-time Vezina Trophy finalist. In 2019, he was awarded the Masterton Trophy for his perseverance and dedication to the sport after revealing his diagnosis and treatment for bipolar disorder, depression, and alcohol and drug addiction.
Prior to his time with the Golden Knights, Lehner played for the Binghamton Senators in the AHL, as well as other NHL teams including the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Islanders, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
2. What He Claims
Earlier this year, Lehner came forward with claims that he has personally witnessed NHL hockey players regularly being offered benzodiazepines and Ambien without prescriptions during long road trips.
Notably, Lehner called out the Philadelphia Flyers directly. He went on to accuse the Flyers’ head coach Alain Vigneault of facilitating medical malpractice, and argued that Vigneault should be fired for his role in illegally providing players with prescription drugs.
3. His exact words
Lehner said the following among a series of tweets:
“Is it common for work places to give out benzodiazepines to employees when they travel and ambien ? Should that not be done by doctors or psychiatrist? Asking for a friend 👀 this doesn’t happen in Vegas to be clear. But I know many other teams. I also been in on teams that do?”
“#PhiladelphiaFlyers ? Dinosaur coach treating people robots not human. Fire these dinosaurs. Fire #vigneault first story. I got proof.. try to shake your way out of this one”
In a later tweet, Lehner added the following:
“I’ve made crazy amount of mistakes, But lying about what I’ve seen for 12 years is not one of them. I don’t care what they say I don’t lie about these things. … I’ll keep going. Have stored stories for a year. Watch now when nhl will try cancel me.”
In another tweet, Lehner claimed to have evidence to back up his statements:
“Enough for today..for everyday that goes by and this shit keeps going I’ll be releasing a story and proof from my self, ex players and current players on what is going on.Truth tweets starts tomorrow unless things don’t get fixed. Have fun.”
4. Follow-Up on ESPN
During an interview with ESPN to clarify his series of tweet allegations, Lehner said “”I believe that we as players have to stand up for what we see that’s wrong around the league, No matter if we are enemies on the ice at times. Next time it could be you that gets wrongly treated or, worse, gets forced to do things that are not good for your health.”
5. The Response
The deputy National Hockey League Commissioner, Bill Daly, told ESPN that the league has reached out to Lehner to speak with him about his claims. Lehner claims that he will continue revealing the inner workings of the NHL, as he has “stories going back for years” and even stated that he would continue voicing his concerns in protest over the unfair treatment of another NHL player.
That player is Jack Eichel, who previously played alongside Lehner during their time with the Buffalo Sabres. Until recently, Eichel was caught in the middle of a long and ugly stalemate with the Sabres over his choice to have artificial disk replacement surgery.
6. Medical Malpractice Specifics
As noted earlier, medical malpractice is an issue that can affect anyone at any time. Lehner’s decision to speak out against malpractice in the NHL has drawn both criticism and acclaim. If Lehner’s allegations are true, however, he has every right to make these incidents public. After all, it is only when such things come to light that efforts can be made to right the wrongs and allow those involved to get the help and compensation they deserve.
In the US, it is against the law for a physician or non-medical personnel to give or share medications with individuals who do not have a specific prescription written for them and dispensed by a legally-recognized pharmacy. Distribution of medications in professional sports is a serious offense, as it is in the regular world among non-professional citizens.
Contacting a medical malpractice lawyer like the professionals at Pribanic is the most efficient step for anyone dealing with an issue like this personally or presenting something you witnessed to the public. If you or someone you love has been the victim of medical malpractice, getting assistance from an experienced legal professional is the best way to ensure a positive outcome.