Deer Antler Spray Is The New Snake Oil


Sports Illustrated has a fascinating look at the shadowy underworld of sports science con men who are peddling just about anything they can think of to desperate players. If you thought Manti Te’o was naive for falling for the fake girlfriend hoax, he’ll fit right in as a professional athlete as his brethren are trying and buying everything but mood rings to enhance their on field performance. Here is just a brief excerpt about a company name S.W.A.T.S – Sports with Alternatives to Steroids – run by a gym owner and former stripper:

Like the star of an infomercial flush with catchphrases — “Guys, this stuff is beyond real!” — [Christopher] Key also showed the players gallon jugs of “negatively charged” water, which he claimed would afford them better hydration because it adheres like a magnet to the body’s cells. Then he held up a canister containing a powder additive, to be mixed in water or juice, that he said had put muscle mass on a woman who was in a coma, and an oscillating “beam ray” lightbulb that could “knock out” the swine flu virus in 90 minutes. Finally, he pulled out a bottle of deer-antler spray (which also comes in pill form). Adrian Hubbard, a linebacker sitting on one of the queen beds, said he already had some, but Key explained its benefits for the others.

“You’re familiar with HGH, correct?” asked Key, referring to human growth hormone. “It’s converted in the liver to IGF-1.” IGF-1, or -insulin-like growth factor, is a natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth. “We have deer that we harvest out of New Zealand,” Key said. “Their antlers are the fastest-growing substance on planet Earth . . . because of the high concentration of IGF-1. We’ve been able to freeze dry that out, extract it, put it in a sublingual spray that you shake for 20 seconds and then spray three [times] under your tongue. . . . This stuff has been around for almost 1,000 years, this is stuff from the Chinese.”

IGF-1 is also a substance banned by the NCAA and by every major pro league. Alleging that the NFL warned players away from S.W.A.T.S.’s spray because it’s a threat to “Big Pharma,” Key boasted that S.W.A.T.S. is “the most controversial supplement company on Earth.”

Modern science may scoff at holographic stickers and negatively charged water, but that matters little if the right athlete becomes a believer or, better yet, a proselytizer. The boundaries of medical science expand at too glacial a pace for many athletes desperate to enhance their performance. That desperation, in turn, represents a business opportunity for self ordained sports science entrepreneurs operating in the shadowy, multibillion-dollar athletic-supplement industry. Key had given some of S.W.A.T.S.’s chips to LSU players before their 9-6 victory over Alabama in November 2011; that helped him get an audience with the Tide players, who received some of the same S.W.A.T.S. products that outfielder Johnny Damon, golfer Vijay Singh and linebacker Shawne Merriman have used. S.W.A.T.S.’s most famous client, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, enters Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday after speaking with Ross in October to request items that would speed his recovery from a torn right triceps.

Good news for Ray Lewis, the deer antler controversy will distract people from talking about his 2000 murder trial.

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