Former Steelers Player Merril Hoge Is Suing Maker of Roundup, Claims Weed Killer Caused His Cancer

Former NFL player and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge is suing the company that produces Roundup, saying that the product caused his cancer.

Hoge is just one of 18,400 other individuals that are suing Monsanto (which was bought by Bayer in June 2018), according to a report from CNN published Wednesday. The plaintiffs say that the weedkiller contributed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which Hoge was diagnosed with in 2003.

The former Steelers player is fortunately now cancer-free after undergoing extensive treatment.

Hoge says in the lawsuit that he followed the proper safety precautions while using Roundup, which he did so extensively while working on an Idaho farm as a young teenager. Per CNN, he is claiming that Monsanto promoted “false, misleading, and untrue” information about the product’s safety.

Bayer did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment but said in a statement to CNN that science does not back up Hoge’s and the other plaintiffs’ claims.

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“We have great sympathy for any individual with cancer, but the extensive body of science on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades supports the conclusion that Roundup does not cause NHL,” the company said.

Glyphosate is the predominant ingredient in Roundup.

“Leading health regulators around the world have repeatedly concluded that Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic … including more than 100 studies (the) EPA considered relevant to its cancer risk analysis, and more than 800 safety studies overall submitted to regulators,” Bayer’s statement continued.

Bayer was referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement in May that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and poses “no risks to public health,” according to a previous CNN report.

However, a 2015 report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

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“There is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals,” the report said, and that glyphosate “caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells.”

Of the thousands of cases against Monsanto, only three have gone to trial — but in all three, the plaintiff won, with the jury finding Roundup to be a “substantial contributing factor in causing the plaintiff’s cancer,” according to CNN.

The first case against Monsanto came in August 2018, and a jury awarded a golf course groundskeeper $289 million, which was later reduced to $200 million. Another man was awarded $80 million in March, and in May a couple was awarded $2 billion in punitive damages, though that number was later reduced to $87 million.

Hoge spent the majority of his NFL career playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and spent his final year in the league on the Chicago Bears. After his football career, during which he suffered multiple concussions, he spent 20 years as a football analyst for ESPN.

Hoge’s lawyer did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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