Deer Antler Spray Controversy Shines Unflattering Light on NFL's PED Issue

Brittany JohnsonContributor IIIFebruary 4, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens holds up a newspaper saying 'World Champions' after defeating the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Ravens defeated the 49ers 34-31.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ray Lewis has achieved the unfathomable: winning the Super Bowl prior to his highly-publicized retirement. However, his road to greatness has not been deprived of controversy. In the days leading up to the game, Sports Illustrated released an article in which Lewis and several other NFL players were attached to the use of a substance known as deer antler spray.

This particular substance has been extracted from New Zealand deer antlers, frozen and placed in a spray that, according to Christopher Key, a co-owner of S.W.A.T.S (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids), will "help your heart have so much more energy. Come the fourth quarter, you guys will not be gassed at all."

With just two sprays under your tongue, you are deemed unstoppable.

IGF-1 is a banned substance in the NCAA and all significant pro leagues. Deer antler spray contains small concentrations of IGF-1, and therein lies the problem for these accused NFL players.

Deer antler spray, as advertised on the S.W.A.T.S website, is actually very easy to get. With the increased conversation over the product, it does take a longer time to receive, but it can be obtained. Owner Mitch Ross and Key claim it to be the real deal and a natural substance, not synthetic, leading many to question that perhaps it could be a legal substance. That question has yet to be answered.

The media's concentration on Lewis' use of the spray has increased the notoriety of S.W.A.T.S, which sells other products to enhance and make your performance better overall. In the interview with SI, it is reported that many NFL players raved about S.W.A.T.S' products, including the deer antler spray.


However, as reported by SI, once linebacker David Vobora tested positive for the steroid methyl testosterone after using the deer antler spray, those rave reviews were recanted. What was once seen as an incredible product for many players was now seen as a one-way ticket to suspension.

What later ensued was a lawsuit in which Vobora won a $5.4 million award. S.W.A.T.S was then avoided by all players and was forced to close and re-open their infamous business.

Ray Lewis, who has since denied the claims made by Mitch Ross, S.W.A.T.S' co-owner, has not escaped the investigation. Ross, in his interview with Sports Illustrated, claimed to have recorded a call with Lewis in which he asks for the deer antler spray following a torn-tricep injury. This report followed Lewis all the way to media day during the Super Bowl.

Amazingly enough, just three days ago outside the media center, Ross told reporters, according to USA Today, that Lewis did not ask him for the deer antler spray. Ross now claims that SI misquoted him. "They catfished me. They dated me for two years and then made me look like a goofball," he said to reporters in New Orleans.

Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) have plagued their way through Olympic sports and the MLB. The light of scrutiny shines hot on particular athletes due to past offenders. Football, though the use of enhancements exists, has been largely passed over by this spotlight.

Perhaps it is the country's love for the game or the blatant dismissal of these substances, but football has yet to be in the hot seat for PEDs. Sure, there have been players who have been revealed to be using PEDs, but the standard for football players is certainly different when it comes to other sports.


All of that seems to be changing now. While the debate continues on whether or not this deer antler spray truly enhances a player's performance and whether or not it is truly illegal, it is evident that Lewis' attachment to this PED, if you wish to call it that, has ultimately changed the view of PEDs in the NFL.

All the talk surrounding Lewis' involvement has proven to all that the use of PEDs are occurring in the NFL and can no longer be ignored.

So, what now? What does this mean for the NFL's association with PEDs in the future?

Well, it can definitely be said that the use of PEDs will be discussed for years to come. Athletes will always be pressured with the expectancy to perform no matter what the circumstance. With this pressure comes the temptation to turn to illegal substances. The question then becomes what the NFL will do to harbor such use.

Whatever it is they decide to do as they move forward, you can bet that the NFL will have to answer to PED investigations more often in the future.