Alabama Players Reportedly Used Banned Substances Before National Championship

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 3:  Defensive lineman Quinton Dial #90 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game with the Kent State Golden Flashes on September 3, 2011 at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Alabama defeated Kent State 48-7.  (Photo by Greg McWilliams/Getty Images)
Greg McWilliams/Getty Images

Members of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team may have put the program in hot water after a Sports Illustrated exposé on the company Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (S.W.A.T.S.) revealed players took banned substances before their 2012 national championship victory.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 1:52 p.m. ET by Tyler Conway

Apparently, the University of Alabama compliance office has been well aware of S.W.A.T.S. for a long time. According to Andrew Gribble of AL.com, Alabama has sent the company two cease-and-desist letters in the past few years for purportedly representing Tide players as endorsing their products.

Here is part of one such letter written by Alabama compliance director Matt Self and sent to Christopher Key in October (via AL.com):

We further request that you refrain from any future contact with any of our current student-athletes. Any future contact should be directed to the coaching staff, the athletics training staff, or the compliance office. Additionally, we ask that you not give or sell any product to our student-athletes. If they wish to use your product, they should obtain them through the athletic training staff and under the supervision of the athletic training staff.

---End of update---

As part of the article by Sports Illustrated's David Epstein and George Dohrmann, Tide players were revealed to have taken IGF-1, which is a banned growth hormone used for adding muscle mass. According to the report, it is also banned by the NCAA and every other major sports league:

IGF-1 is also a substance banned by the NCAA and by every major pro league. Alleging that the NFL warned players away from S.W.A.T.S.'s spray because it's a threat to "Big Pharma," [Christopher] Key boasted that S.W.A.T.S. is "the most controversial supplement company on Earth."

The Alabama players reportedly received the substance, based on harvested deer antlers, from Christopher Key, one of the two men who run S.W.A.T.S, along with Mitch Ross. Key reportedly met with the Tide players two nights before their 21-0 victory over the LSU Tigers.

Key also reportedly gave the players, including defensive end Quinton Dial, "stickers, which [Key] calls chips" to place on three acupuncture points. These, according to Key, were meant to help give the players balance and energy through all four quarters. 

He also gave them something called "negatively charged water," with the three products combining to create hormones throughout the body. 

It should be noted that the deer antler spray provided by Key that night only had small doses of IGF-1, and the deer byproduct has not been scientifically proven to work on humans. 

Nonetheless, S.W.A.T.S. has also found its way into the professional ranks. According to Epstein and Dohrmann, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis met with Ross to help heal a torn triceps that limited him to six regular season games in 2012. Lewis returned for the Ravens' playoff run, helping key his team to a Super Bowl XLVII appearance.

It ultimately remains unclear whether these products had any effect on Lewis or the Tide players, real or imagined. However, after Tuesday's report, look for there to be far more questions about S.W.A.T.S. in the coming weeks.