NFL Orders Players To Cut Ties With Company Touting Deer Antler Supplement | ThePostGame www.thepostgame.com
The NFL has sent letters to several players ordering them to cut ties with S.W.A.T.S., the company at the center of sports’ latest performance-enhancing substance controversy, ThePostGame.com has learned.
With no warning, last summer became the Summer of Expansion. Conferences were attempting to raid one another, fans were trying to figure out who’d be coming and going from their league, and the media happily received a summer’s worth of topics to discuss.
Here’s my bet for Offseason 2011: We’ll spend the whole summer talking about allegations, accusations, rules violations and controversies. It will be the Summer of Controversy. Just think about all that we’ve heard in the past month. Now realize that moving forward there will be no actual games to talk about. That means more bizarro rumors and imbroglios.
Unfortunately, it’s a lot more fun to talk about the business of conference expansion than the intricacies of alleged rules violations. Now we’ve even got to deal with “controversies” that really might not even be controversies at all.
Yahoo! Sports’ online magazine The Post Game has tied the Auburn football program to a company — Sports With Alternatives To Steroids – that made news recently when the NFL told its employees to steer clear of the group. SWATS makes supplements in different forms that are not supposed to include banned substances. But one of the company’s supplements — The Ultimate Spray — contained a growth hormone found in deer antler velvet that is illegal.
The group also makes a holgraphic chip called The Golf Chip that is supposed to boost performance. And that’s where Auburn comes into the picture.
Last year, safety Zac Etheridge was returning from a serious neck injury. He credited the wearing of The Golf Chips — in part — for his recovery. And he wanted to spread the word. According to The Post Game:
Etheridge wanted his teammates to hear about the chips, so he arranged for Christopher Key (a partner in SWATS) to address the group. Key says roughly 60 Auburn players were present, including nearly all of the starters. Etheridge says his teammates were impressed enough to try the chips during the season. When Auburn beat Oregon 22-19 in the BCS title game, many of the Auburn players were wearing the chips in the form of a band wrapped around their wrists, according to Etheridge’s account.
“A lot of us wore them throughout our championship run and we won the championship,” Etheridge says in a SWATS video. “Compared to last year, fourth quarter, we were gassed. And those bands, we felt liek that fourth quarter was the first quarter.”
The photo at left — from the SWATS website — shows how the bands are worn on the wrists.
A few notes:
1. Gene Chizik and his assistants had to know that his players were wearing these bands. If not, then that’s another issue altogether. So why would the coaches even allow their players to wear anything the least bit controversial? Why even risk something like that? If the bands actually provided an enhanced performance, then it should have been obvious to the coaches that they might soon come under fire. Especially since the NFL had already told its players to end their relationships with the company.
2. Of course, the bands could have simply had a placebo effect on Auburn’s players. The company claims to have figured out a way for players’ bodies to absorb the “frequency” of potassium — for example — and that frequency is what’s on the chips. So instead of having to eat a banana to get a potassium boost, players could simply put on a holographic chip. Sounds a bit kooky, folks.
3. A sample of the chips – according to The Post Game – “were tested by Anti-Doping Research, Inc. and found not to contain anabolic steroids and stimulants. However, the study’s author, Don Caitlin, noted in his report that results cannot be generalized to any other batch of stickers.” The Post Game also writes that the chips “have not been touted as containing any banned substance.” In other words, the chips do not contain the deer antler velvet extract.
4. So basically we have a publication tying Auburn players to questionable chips produced by a company with a shady reputation. But the chips themselves have not been called into question yet. Making matters more interesting, while Auburn — the defending BCS champion — is mentioned in the headline… some Alabama players are said to have worn the chips in 2008. That part doesn’t make The Post Game’s headline. And that’s an example of how champions draw more scrutiny.
5. Here’s what The Post Game writes regarding Bama’s usage of the chips:
On September 27, 2008, No. 10 Alabama went on the road to take on No. 3 Georgia.
“Tonight Alabama is going to triple chip against Georgia and beat the ever living s*** out of them,” (a SWATS partner said via text to an NFL coach). “And the chips are going to be the reason why.”
A few months earlier, Ross says he passed along his chips to some University of Alabama student-athletes. One of those was star running back Glen Coffee, who says he did try them. According to Ross, some members of the Crimson Tide football team were wearing the chips the night they took on Georgia, which went into the season ranked No. 1. (Reached by phone, Alabama sports information director Jeff Purinton told ThePostGame.com, “Alabama has nothing to do with this guy.”)
By halftime, the Crimson Tide was rolling over Georgia, 31-0.
6. In 2009, Alabama sent a letter to company founder Mitch Ross “ordering him to avoid contact with all of its student-athletes.” At that point SWATS began targeting NFL teams instead of college squads.
However, the company eventually decided to “show Alabama the hard way that the technology worked by taking it to the Crimson Tide’s biggest rival.” An Auburn booster allegedly introduced representatives of SWATS to “several team doctors” who approved the use of the chips on several players, including Etheridge.
7. As was the case with HBO’s “Real Sports” report, Auburn officials did not return “a half-dozen calls” from The Post Game.
8. Bottom line: Coaches should know better than to allow their players to wear or spray or bathe in any substance that is the least bit questionable. If a substance touts itself as being performance enhancing, it’s probably going to come under scrutiny at some point. Best to steer clear of holographic chips lest your program get dragged into a controversy. Perhaps Chizik realizes that now.
Below is the pro-chips video made by Etheridge for SWATS.