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Former UT QB Ainge Says He, Others Abused Pain Killers, Worse In College

Backup New York Jets quarterback and former Tennessee Volunteer Erik Ainge has opened up to ESPN New York about his battle with prescription pain killers and other hard drugs.  According to the quarterback — whose senior year in Knoxville came in 2007 — he was using while at UT.

Some excerpts from Ainge’s first-person account:


I’m a drug addict.  I was in denial for a long time, but that’s who I am.  My addiction is with the hardest of hard drugs — heroin, cocaine and alcohol.  During my days of using, I was a really bad drug addict.  I would’ve made Charlie Sheen look like Miss Daisy.


And…


It got worse in high school and even worse in college.  By the time I was a senior in college, I was an addict.  I played my whole senior season with a broken finger on my throwing hand.  It was really badly broken.  Just taking the snap, throwing the ball, handing if off, getting tackled — everything that goes along with playing quarterback — it was very painful.

Throughout that process, I became hooked on pain killers.  I got them from the team doctor.  I went through the prescriptions pretty fast.  After he had been giving them to me for quite a while, he said he couldn’t give them to me anymore.

I was hooked on them and I was playing football, and there was no way I was going to cancel my senior year by going to rehab.  I started getting them from people, buying them, getting them off the street.  I wasn’t the only player on the team that was doing it, so we knew people.  It wasn’t, like, super sketchy or anything.  We knew people who had them, and we were Tennessee football players, so they pretty much just gave them to us.


ESPN contacted UT but a spokesperson denied comment.

Ainge says that he is coming forward to help others who are battling addiction.  We at MrSEC.com wish him well in his recovery.  But the fallout from this bombshell could get interesting.

First, did then head coach Phillip Fulmer know of his star quarterback’s addiction?  Did members of the Tennessee staff — like then-offensive coordinator and current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe — turn blind eyes to Ainge’s issues?

Fulmer is considered to be a candidate for the UT athletic director position should current AD Mike Hamilton be dismissed at some point.  If details of a drug scandal under his watch pop up, that could hurt his chances for landing that spot, if he wants it.

Finally, from Lane Kiffin to Bruce Pearl to the NCAA to pain killers… how many more bad stories can Tennessee fans stomach at this point?

For the record, Ainge had a solid senior season at Tennessee throwing  for 3,522 yards, 31 touchdowns (versus just 10 interceptions) and he was sacked just 3 times.

 


15 comments
Wes
Wes

Public schools are exempt from HIPAA for starters.

And there is about 20 other reasons this has nothing to do with HIPAA, both practical and legal.

Yes if any doctor suspects a drug addiction issue in a college student they should notify someone.

sec_fan
sec_fan

Public schools are exempt from HIPPA because they do not hold health records. The team student health services, the team doctor and other medical providers working for the school would not be exempt. Like most laws there is nothing practical with HIPPA. There are legal provisions that would allow the doctor to report suspected abuse. Like I said before I am sure a waiver was on file or they could not discuss drug test results or athlete fitness with coaches.

wes
wes

You have no idea what you are talking about.

sec_fan
sec_fan

I have worked in the health care industry for 6 year. I have HIPPA training at least once per year. What are your credentials.

Sun Wukong
Sun Wukong

It seems this would be a bombshell that falls in an empty building. Everyone in the football program, other than perhaps some lower level staff, who might be responsible for enabling Eric Ainge is gone now. Maybe it makes Hamilton look sort of bad?

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Sun Wukong...

As we pointed out in the story, this could have a fallout on Phillip Fulmer's legacy -- and possible future plans -- as well as on David Cutcliffe's career. That's IF the Knoxville media asks questions. But it doesn't appear that that's happening.

John

Wes
Wes

I predict the "fallout from this bombshell" will be about the same as the "outrage over the firing of Bruce Pearl".

This story isn't one of a "drug scandal". It is about a young man with serious problems and having the courage to come out publicly about them for his own catharsis and to benefit others. Once the initial boob postings of "ooh drugs at TN" die down, hopefully the story will change from the incorrect "Erik threw TN under the bus" to the correct "this took guts and character".

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Wes...

It did take guts to open up. But whether or not this becomes a big deal or not depends on whether or not the media chooses to pursue it. A former Tennessee player says he and others were using illegal drugs at Tennessee. Yes, that kind of behavior goes on elsewhere, but no one has come out and pinned the tail on the program as has just happened with Tennessee. If the media wants to dig into who used illegal drugs, where they got them, how UT's drug screening program failed to reveal the usage, and who on the coaching staff might have known... then yes this could be a very big story.

If no one chooses to ask anyone else for comments... then it will disappear.

Thanks for reading,
John

BamaGreg
BamaGreg

Football and pain killers are like peas and carrots. These types of drugs are very addictive. It's no surprise that MANY players on MANY teams have this same issue. However I think it's pretty low down that Ainge makes UT look like an enabler. It says right there on the bottle - Take as directed - Typical addict, it's always someone elses fault, right?

Kris
Kris

When did Fulmer become a candidate for an athletic director's job??? What in the world makes him qualified to head an entire athletic department? It's pretty obvious he did a poor job of running one sport at the end of his career, what makes him a "candidate" to run the entire UTAD? I know the Fulmerites out there are still bitter he was fired, but come on, get real.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

This also comes back to one of the issues I have with college sports - coaching oversight. The NCAA limits the contact that a coach can have with an athlete to X number a week. I believe it is 20 hours a week in football. Here you have young men and women that are learning their way in the world and are stars in college towns. They can gain access to anything that they want. The school is basically forced to leave them to their own, and cannot watch over them to make sure they are not in trouble. However people tear the AD and coaches apart when an athlete has issues with the law. The school needs a better way to watch over athletes than the tools that the NCAA gives the school now. These students need to have the coaching staff and AD employees more involved in their lives. Very few of them come to school with the tools and maturity able to handle the attention of even a roll player on the team.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Growing up in Knoxville and graduating from UT, this does not surprise me. There have been many famous links between drugs and athletes in Knoxville. From Cobb supposedly running a cocaine ring out of the athletic dorm, to the whole guns and drugs mess with the basketball team last year. Notice that Ainge said the team dr. cut him off. Usually a Dr. will only do that if they believe that someone is having an issue. So there was knowledge on the staff, however is the team Dr. able to talk to the coaching staff about this without violating HIPPA? The question was how was Ainge passing all of these drug tests? Was their cover up in the department because he was the starting QB? This does explain some of his play when he was able to get on the field.
This was a problem that started in high school and only got worse in college. Which most kids if they have a drug problem in high school, will only get worse once they are on their own in college.

Wes
Wes

- There is nothing in the HIPAA laws that says your football coach to discuss your health conditions with the team doctor. It mostly only deals with your electronic medical records and the logging of who views them, and how they are handled.

- It is standard procedure for a doctor to limit the number of refills on a pain killer. And that cutoff would be BEFORE a problem was suspected. What is a doctor going to say "I'll give you 10 refills, but if you ask for more than 5 then I suspect you are abusing". Several people have made the same ignorant comment that if Ainge reached the limit the the doctor knew there was an issue. Cover-up? What are they supposed to do? Call a press conference?

- Every college campus in america has drug users, drug addicts, arrests, and arrests of athletes for drugs. Why do you feel the need to drag a 25-year old rumor about Reggie Cobb into the discussion of a guy coming clean? Yes, no one likes these stories but it is reality here, there, and everywhere. When did you graduate, 1930?

- They don't drug test these guys every day, and other than weed a lot of these drugs are not traceable for long. Could have just been luck, could have been tipped off to testing, etc. Not a stretch to think a habitual narcotic user could dodge getting caught. They can't hide an actual failed test though.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

If he was going to the student services doctor and not the team doctor, then it would be a violation of HIPAA if the doctor shared the information with anyone without the patients permission.

I am not saying that there should have been a press conference, but there are addiction services offered to students free of charge. It does not appear from these articles that Ainge was ever pushed into these programs.

You are right - there are issues on every college campus. UTK is the only campus that I am familiar with. I grew up in Knoxville and graduated in '93. There was a large drug problem in E.Tenn when I lived there, and reading the papers when I go back home, it still exists. The Cobb mention was just to point out that major drugs and athletes are a on going theme.

Ainge admits to more than just pain killers - cocaine, and heroine are also on his list. Those are not easy to get out of the system.

One item to take from the articles; He is not bashing UT or the coaches. He is just stating facts. I have not read one article that cast blame on anyone other than Ainge. He admits to having this issue before he arrived and it continued after.

wes
wes

A conversation between an individual about healthcare received on a college campus would be regulated by FERPA and not HIPAA, and a complaint in this case would be baseless. Furthermore, you can guarantee that a scholarship athlete signs whatever releases are necessary to insure that a coach can have unfettered conversations with all doctors, on campus or off. Campus infirmaries do not write prescriptions for narcotics.

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  1. [...] Bama News 3/29/11 FORMER UT QB AINGE SAYS HE, OTHERS ABUSED PAIN KILLERS, WORSE IN COLLEGE Homepage | MrSEC.com Reply With Quote + Reply to [...]

  2. [...] Read more of “Former UT QB Ainge says he, others abused pain killers, worse in college” … 3.29.11 [...]

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