SWATS (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids) is the company that manufactures the deer antler velvet spray and pills, holographic stickers and other products that Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis allegedly used during his recovery from a triceps injury last year, according to a Sports Illustrated report.
Popularly written as S.W.A.T.S., the company is at the forefront of a burgeoning performance-enhancing side industry that has been linked to some of the biggest names in sports.
And SWATS finds itself in the spotlight this week as Sports Illustrated's investigation tells the sordid tale of a company going to great lengths to get its controversial products in the hands of top pro and college athletes.
The official SWATS company homepage has been down for much of the time since the SI story was posted online on Tuesday, but a lot can still be learned about the outfit and its products.
First of all, there are two men behind SWATS, namely owner Mitch Ross and his business partner, Christopher Key, and the company -- full name SWATS Edge Performance Chips, LLC -- is "run out of the back of a gym near Birmingham," according to Sports Illustrated.
In fact, based on the business registry information about SWATS held by the Alabama Secretary of State, the company's registered office street address is 220 Decatur Highway in Fultondale, a suburb located to the north of Birmingham.
But the company's principal address is 5900 Monona Drive, Suite 401, Madison, Wis., according to the agency document. It is very common for businesses to have registered and principal addresses in different states.
The company was formed in Wisconsin on Dec. 29, 2010, according to Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions registry records, and has been operating in Alabama since Jan. 1, 2011.
And in that time it has become a major player in the field of performance-enhancing substances, selling its deer velvet pills and spray, holographic stickers and other products to a wide range of sports figures that allegedly includes the University of Alabama football team, both Ray Lewis and Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis, Raiders coach Hue Lewis, among others, according to the Sports Illustrated report, which will appear in the Feb. 4 print edition of the magazine.
The deeply reported article includes a vivid section in which Key is quoted saying the following to members of the University of Alabama football team the night before the team faced Louisiana State University in the 2012 BCS national championship game in an attempt to get them to use the company's products:
"We have deer that we harvest out of New Zealand," Key said. "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."
The deer velvet products -- which come in pill, powder and spray form -- have become quite popular, but it isn't even clear that deer IGF-1 works on humans. And the fact that it contains IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) is the reason why NFL policy bans its players from using the drug.
Ray Lewis, who has never tested positive for the little-known substance, allegedly sprayed deer antler spray -- also known as deer antler velvet -- under his tongue every two hours and took 10 deer antler pills daily to boost his recovery after sustaining a triceps injury during an October game against the Dallas Cowboys, according to the SI report.
Lewis and the Ravens have both told ESPN that he never used the substance:
"Ray has been randomly tested for banned substances and has never failed a test. We have never been notified of a failed test. He has never been notified of a failed test," Ravens Vice President of Communications Kevin Byrne said, adding that the team spoke with Lewis Tuesday morning about the SI report, and that "he denied using the substance discussed in the article, and we believe him."
But speculation is growing that he and other high-profile sports figures may have been connected to it, and it and SWATS are both coming under increased scrutiny as the new report makes the rounds.