Alabama Players Reportedly Linked to Banned Substance, but It's Not a Huge Deal

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 29, 2013

Super Bowl week never lacks storylines, and this week is apparently no different.

Sports Illustrated issued a report on Tuesday morning detailing current Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis' use of deer antler spray when recovering from the torn triceps injury that kept him out of action for nearly three months prior to the Ravens' playoff run.

So what does that have to do with college football?

SI reports that several Alabama players, including defensive end Quinton Dial, linebacker Alex Watkins and linebacker Adrian Hubbard, allegedly met with Christopher Key of S.W.A.T.S. (Sports With Alternatives to Steroids) on the two nights prior to its 21-0 BCS National Championship Game win over LSU in January of 2012.

In that meeting, Key provided the players with holographic "chips," negatively-charged water and deer antler spray—the third of which contains IGF-1, a banned substance by the NCAA.

Sound familiar?

If it doesn't, it should.

The same company using the same products was the subject of an April 2011 report by Yahoo! Sports detailing the use of "chips" by Alabama players, Auburn players and athletes from around the country, including Lewis himself.

In the Yahoo! report, S.W.A.T.S. founder Mitch Ross texted then-Cleveland Browns assistant coach in 2008 telling him that the Crimson Tide were going to "triple-chip" against Georgia that night.

"Tonight Alabama is going to triple chip against Georgia," Ross texted. "And the chips are going to be the reason why."

They won 41-30 in a game in which they led 31-0 at the half.

Nothing happened then, and unless the players test positively for a banned substance, nothing will happen now.

Sure, some of the products may contain banned substances, and most of the products seem odd to the casual fan.

The excuse, "I didn't know it was a banned substance," is standard operating procedure when almost any athlete is caught using performance-enhancing drugs. Sometimes it is the truth, and sometimes it isn't. But the fact that it is appropriate at times is an indication of an ongoing issue in all of athletics.

Educating players on what's legal and what isn't needs to evolve as technology does the same, which might mean that the rulebook that the NCAA wants to pare down may not become as small as the NCAA wants.

Alabama isn't going to get into any trouble over this, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on. Above all else, don't meet random people touting steroid alternatives in hotel rooms.