Vijay Singh, known for his intense work ethic on the golf course and in the gym, is one of the athletes who have used a banned substance from a two-man company run in the back of a gym in Alabama called S.W.A.T.S. — Sports With Alternatives to Steroids, according to a fascinating Sports Illustrated story.
Christopher Key and Mitch Ross sell products like deer antler spray, hologram chips and “negatively charged” water that claim to help enhance an athlete’s performance. The deer antler spray contains IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), a “natural anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth,” which is banned by the NCAA and every major pro league.
Among the athletes named in the article is Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who reportedly used the product to help heal his torn triceps. At Super Bowl media day in New Orleans on Tuesday, Lewis refused to address the SI story.
The PGA Tour and MLB warned its players in 2011 that the deer antler spray, which is advertised as containing banned IGF-1, was implicated in a positive drug test. Mark Calcavecchia was also told to stop promoting the product.
However, Vijay Singh, who turns 50 next month, admitted to SI that he uses S.W.A.T.S. products:
(Vijay Singh, however, remains a vocal supporter. In November, Singh paid Ross $9,000 for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive — making him one of the few athletes who is compensating S.W.A.T.S. He says he uses the spray banned by the PGA “every couple of hours . . . every day,” sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders. “I’m looking forward to some change in my body,” Singh says. “It’s really hard to feel the difference if you’re only doing it for a couple of months.”)
It may not start and end with Singh, either — though this was around two years ago:
The chips and spray also had recently begun to spread through golf after a friend with whom Ross sold Christmas trees introduced him to a PGA caddie. In short order, Ross says, the caddie “was passing me around the golf world like a prostitute.”
According to GolfChannel.com, Ty Votaw, the Tour’s czar of communications and international affairs, declined comment, but he did say, “We were just made aware of the report and are looking into it.
“While IGF-1 is on the Tour’s banned-substances list, Votaw confirmed that, like many other professional sports leagues, the circuit does not test for either IGF-1 or HGH. ‘We have not determined a reliable test for it,’ Votaw said.”
Singh is known for his somewhat absurd practice schedule and intense workout program. He’s been plagued with injuries the last few years, but in 2011 he went to Germany for a back procedure, which is not legal or practiced in the U.S. Singh, who isn’t known to be the most press-friendly player, has not yet been reached for comment.
Now does this stuff actually work? The SI story presents both sides, including testimonials from NFL players, but remains a skeptical tone. And of course, S.W.A.T.S. will tell you: “This stuff is beyond real.”
I hate to admit that I’m kind of intrigued and curious as to the products’ validity.