How did Ray Lewis come back so quickly from an apparent season-ending injury? Was it deer antler velvet supplements? It may be banned by pro sports and the NCAA, but weekend warriors take note!

Todd Runestad, Content Director,, Sr. Supplements Editor

January 30, 2013

2 Min Read
Ray Lewis and the deer antler velvet scandal

Ray Lewis, Super Bowl star linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, has denied taking the dietary supplement deer antler velvet, which is used by athletes because it’s a natural steroid source but banned by all professional sports leagues and the NCAA.

The story broke in Sports Illustrated this past week, which alleged that Lewis called  SWATS (an acronym meaning Sports With Alternatives To Steroids) after he suffered an apparent season-ending torn triceps injury in a game on Oct. 14. The company manufactures deer antler velvet – “the fastest-growing substance on planet Earth … because of the high concentration of IGF-1,” said Christopher Key, a SWATS employee quoted in the Sports Illustrated story. 

IGF-1 stands for insulin-like growth factor-1, which is a natural hormone that’s banned by the NFL, the NCAA and every major professional sports league.

Deer antler velvet has long been used in Asia, and is a supplement available in U.S. markets. “Deer Velvet has a long history of use in the Orient, and this traditional use is supported by a growing body of scientific evidence showing that velvet, when taken as a supplement, improves athletic performance, stamina and recovery from injury,” Mountain Red’s CEO Karen Morley told Engredea in 2010.

Sounding just a little bit like Lance Armstrong, who would routinely say that he’s the most tested athlete in the world without actually saying the words, ‘I have never doped,’ Lewis said at the NFL Media day on Tuesday: “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 taken with the NFL, and there’s never been any question about if I’ve ever even thought about using anything.”

After Lewis suffered the injury, his phone conversation to SWATS was taped, which provided a fascinating glimpse into the alternative-healing modality practice. As Sports Illustrated reported:

Ross prescribed a deluxe program, including holographic stickers on the right elbow; copious quantities of the powder additive; sleeping in front of a beam-ray light programmed with frequencies for tissue regeneration and pain relief; drinking negatively charged water; a 10-per-day regimen of the deer-antler pills that will "rebuild your brain via your small intestines" (and which Lewis said he hadn't been taking, then swallowed four during the conversation); and spritzes of deer-antler velvet extract (the Ultimate Spray) every two hours.

"Spray on my elbow every two hours?" Lewis asked.

"No," Ross said, "under your tongue."

Toward the end of the talk, Lewis asked Ross to "just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this this week."

Did Ray Lewis illegally take a banned substance? Will his legacy be tarnished? Who's going to win the Super Bowl? Comment below.

About the Author(s)

Todd Runestad

Content Director,, Sr. Supplements Editor, Natural Products Insider

I've been writing on nutrition science news since 1997. I'm The content director for NaturalProductsInsidercom and digital magazines. Other incarnations: supplements editor for, Delicious Living and Natural Foods Merchandiser. Former editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients magazine and still cover raw material innovations and ingredient science.

Connect with me here

My daily vitamin regime includes a morning smoothie with a range of powders including protein, collagen and spirulina; a quality multi, B complex, C with bioflavonoids, >2,000IU vitamin D, E, magnesium, high-selenium yeast, PQQ, choline, alpha-lipoic acid with carnitine, coQ10, fish oil concentrate, probiotics and some adaptogenic herbs. 

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