The NFL has ordered new Raiders coach Hue Jackson to end his relationship with "The Ultimate Spray." You'd think it's because the spray contains a banned substance that's almost impossible to test for, but no. It's just procedural stuff.
Yahoo's Eric Adelson has a great story about the supplement manufacturer "S.W.A.T.S.," and their ties to the NFL. (If you were wondering, the last "S" stands for "steroids," and more dubiously, the "A-T" stands for "alternative to.") They're part hoodoo - deer antler is an ancient Chinese remedy, and they also sell hologram stickers for getting your chi in balance, or something - and part science. Specifically, a protein closely related to HGH, which is banned by pretty much every major sport, including football.
That protein, IGF-1, is found in their spray, and, more troubling, possibly found in athletes like Ray Lewis and others listed on their website as endorsers. Cincinnati's Roy Williams says he uses the spray all the time. S.W.A.T.S. produced text messages purportedly from Lewis acknowledging his receipt of his spray shipments.
Because HGH and related compounds require expensive and complex blood testing, rather than the standard urine sample, the NFL doesn't test for them (they have proposed it, but the player's union is opposed). It's widely assumed that growth hormone usage is pervasive, if not rampant in sports. So until the policing catches up to the technology, everyone would rather sweep it under the rug and pretend the problem doesn't exist. That's why it's especially worrisome when a head coach has a years-long relationship with S.W.A.T.S., like Hue Jackson did until just recently.
The league forced him to disassociate himself, and he did. But, curiously, their reasoning isn't that the product he endorsed is, by any definition, illegal in the NFL.
We have a long-standing policy that prohibits coaches from any relationship with a supplement company," said NFL Director of Corporate Communications Brian McCarthy. "Coach Jackson is now in compliance."
Any supplement, not just ones containing banned substances. Jackson couldn't be a spokesman for even Centrum Silver, which, in the eyes of the league, is on par with magical antler hormones. It's a better-safe-than-sorry approach that's admirable, but doesn't cover the players — the ones actually using the product. Ray Lewis can continue to have his name and testimonial on S.W.A.T.S.'s website, and can continue to use the spray. If there's something illegal in there, he knows he won't be caught.