Superbowl Sunday is just hours away. If you’re a die-hard football fan, you’ve been following the teams’ road to the big dance all week – from interviews with both players and coaches, to accounts of record-breaking seasons, to other multimedia publicity. And if you’re tuned into any sports channel, whether it’s TV, radio or the internet, you’ve heard about Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’s most recent controversy: the use of deer antler velvet spray, containing a banned substance.
According to a report by Sports Illustrated (SI), Lewis sought the help of a company called SWATS (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids) following his potentially career-ending torn triceps injury. SWATS sells deer antler spray, among other performance enhancing options. Notice I said options – not necessarily drugs.
When questioned about his use of the NFL banned substance, Lewis laughed it off, saying, “That was a 2-year-old story that you want me to refresh… so I won’t even speak about it. Because I’ve been in this business 17 years, and nobody has ever got up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test I’ve ever took in the NFL — there’s never been a question of if I ever even thought about using anything. So to even entertain stupidity like that. …”
Lewis’s coach, John Harbaugh, also dismissed the claims. “He [Lewis} laughed about it,” Harbaugh said. “He told me there’s nothing to it. He’s told us in the past and now that he has never taken any of it.”
SWATS owner, Mitch Ross, begs to differ. He had indicated to SI that he had recorded a conversation between Lewis and himself, in which Lewis asks for the Deer Antler Spray, among other pills and products from the company.
So what exactly IS this banned substance? And regardless of whether or not Ray Lewis used it, if it’s an all-natural product, like many experts claim, should it be banned?
Deer Antler Velvet: The Lowdown
Deer Antler Velvet has actually been used for over 2000 years, for medicinal purposes. Its “secret ingredient” is something called Insulin Growth Factor-1 or IGF-1. Insulin is a key component of your body’s ability to function. You need insulin to turn the foods and beverages you consume into energy. Insulin also has an impact on your body’s metabolism. Some experts even say that IGF-1 is the “ultimate health, muscle and anti-aging factor in the human body.”
Your body naturally makes IGF, spurred on by the release of Human Growth Hormone, or HGH. But as you get older, your body produces less HGH, and thus less IGF-1. This becomes detrimental to your health, because suddenly your systems cannot handle everything that’s thrown at them in an efficient manner. IGF-1 has been shown to be essential for the optimal health of your heart, nerves, muscles and tissues, immune system, blood sugar, and may even boost your fat-burning potential.
Deer Antler Velvet also contains other growth factors, such as IGF-2, Transforming Growth Factors A and B (TGF-A and TGF-B), Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). Each is responsible for the health of different areas of the body, such as bone and joint health, wound healing, vascular health, and even proper digestion.
Should Deer Antler Velvet Be Banned?
Obviously, if Lewis did make use of Deer Antler Velvet, it would have been for the benefits seen in muscle and tissue health, and the overall benefits Deer Antler Velvet provides the body. Which begs the question… if it’s an all-natural substance, which has been used medicinally for thousands and thousands of years, why shouldn’t players (and the general population, for that matter) be able to make use of it? It’s not synthetically manufactured to enhance performance; but rather those benefits to performance are a natural response of the components of antler velvet. Just as your heart may benefit from CoQ10, or your joints benefit from fish oil, why shouldn’t your whole body be able to benefit from deer antler velvet?
The answer to that question remains to be seen. With this recent controversy, perhaps more time will be invested in discovering exactly what deer antler velvet can do for the body – and hopefully education will follow.
On a side note, at time of publication of this article, the SWATS website was down, with a ‘note’ stating that due to recent ‘news coverage’ the processing and delivery times were lengthy. Apparently they weren’t prepared for the audience they would reach when outing a legendary NFL player. Hmmm… maybe that’s why they ‘leaked’ that story during Super Bowl Week?
Do you think Deer antler should be banned in professional sports? You can leave your comments below.