The company that says it provided deer-antler spray, a product that contains a banned substance, to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis also sold its goods to members of the 2012 national championship Alabama football team, according to a co-owner of the company.
And Christopher Key, the SWATS co-owner, told ESPN's Joe Schad on Wednesday he personally witnessed about five Alabama players spray what he sold them into their mouths.
"I showed them how to use it," Key said.
Key said about 20 players purchased the spray at a hotel room in New Orleans leading into the BCS national championship game against LSU. And he said he sold about 20 more bottles to players at the apartment of an Alabama player 10 days before the game.
Sports Illustrated first reported the connection between SWATS, an Alabama-based company, and several SEC programs.
The Sports Illustrated story reported that Key filmed a sales pitch to a number of Alabama players two days before the 2012 title game in New Orleans. The article mentioned former Crimson Tide defensive lineman Quinton Dial and current players Adrian Hubbard and Alex Watkins as being part of the sales pitch.
Watkins made a YouTube testimonial for SWATS, and Hubbard was filmed in the hotel room saying he had the deer-antler spray, SI reported. Deer-antler spray contains a substance, IGF-1, which is on the NFL's banned list.
"Nothing we offer them will make them fail a drug test," Key said, when asked about the substance being banned by the NCAA. "This will make you heal faster. This will give you nutrients. There have been many clinical studies."
Key said he has received cease-and-desist letters from Alabama, LSU and Auburn demanding not to use current players' likenesses. Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson said that school sent a cease-and-desist letter in 2011. "But you can't tell me I can't talk to your players," Key said. "We live in a free country."
Alabama, in a statement issued Tuesday night, said: "UA has been aware of this situation for some time, and we have monitored this company for several years. They have twice ignored cease-and-desist letters sent by our compliance office. We have maintained consistent education of our student-athletes regarding the substances in question and will continue to do so."
Key said players bought products at a rate he cited as confidential.
"They want to win," he said. "After the games they said they couldn't believe how they weren't tired and how much energy they had."
Key was quoted by SI as explaining the benefits of the spray to the Alabama players.
"You're familiar with HGH, correct? It's converted in the liver to IGF-1," Key explained, according to the Sports Illustrated report. "IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor, is a natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth. We have deer that we harvest out of New Zealand. Their antlers are the fastest-growing substance on planet Earth ... because of the high concentration of IGF-1.
"We've been able to freeze dry that out, extract it, put it in a sublingual spray that you shake for 20 seconds and then spray three [times] under your tongue. ... This stuff has been around for almost 1,000 years, this is stuff from the Chinese," Key said, according to the magazine.
However, a professor at Johns Hopkins University told the Baltimore Sun that, despite SWATS' claims, there isn't an acceptable scientific way that IGF-1 can be effectively delivered orally.
"If there were, a lot of people would be happy that they don't need to get shots anymore," Dr. Roberto Salvatori told the newspaper. "It's just simply not possible for it to come from a spray."
Key said he sold about 20 bottles of deer-antler spray to LSU players before the regular-season meeting with Alabama that year. Key said he has also provided healing hologram "chips," which are stuck to the body, to Auburn players during their national-championship season and this past season sold healing "bands" to players at Ole Miss and Georgia.
SI reported that the Alabama coaching staff was unaware of the meetings in the hotel room.
Key said he has initially reached out to many of his athlete clients through Facebook and Twitter. He would not comment on which players at which schools he sold deer-antler spray to this season. Key said at certain points, the strength staffs at Alabama and LSU said they did not endorse his dealings with players.
"I'm not trying to get anyone in trouble," Key said. "The whole idea is to compete without cheating. We're not bad guys."