Feb. 03--The Sports Illustrated report alleging that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis used an obscure potion containing a banned substance to help recover from a torn triceps set off a stampede to Google.
Deer antler velvet? It's one of the most searched phrases of the past week.
Ted Alflen knows what's likely to follow. He expects a flood of orders for BuckPower Antler Velvet, which he distributes through his Pompano Beach-based TCCD International.
That's what happened two years ago when former Bengals safety Roy Williams admitted using a similar product supplied by the same company -- Sports With Alternatives to Steroids -- now linked to Lewis.
"He started talking about it and it went viral. Our sales were five times as much as it was the prior year. We couldn't even stock it on their shelves fast enough," said Alflen, whose clients include Vitamin Shoppe retailers and Walgreens.com.
With demand for the product beginning to wane recently, SI's Super Bowl week revelation is "like winning the lottery or something," he said. "If I spent a million dollars there's no way in one day I could get as much advertising as this."
Controversy sells, and so does the eternal quest for a magic elixir.
What is also driving interest is the exotic nature of the product. The one Alflen sells is manufactured from the velvet-like tissue of the antlers of New Zealand red deer.
Lewis is cast as a deer in headlights due to IGF-1, a natural, anabolic hormone in deer antlers that stimulates muscle growth. While products containing deer antler velvet are legally sold, IGF-1 has been banned by the NFL and other sports leagues.
BuckPower Antler Velvet is touted as increasing muscle strength and recovery, improving energy and endurance and promoting joint health. Like with many products in the $25 billion-a-year dietary supplement industry, it hasn't been definitively proved that it does any of that.
Alflen points to a study showing positive effects of deer antler velvet on a group of weightlifters. The research, led by Dr. Craig Broeder who once headed the Exercise Science program at East Tennessee State University, determined that those using antler velvet had reduced muscle damage and significant improvement in the rate of repair of any muscle damage that did occur.
Alflen, who played three seasons of professional football with the Broncos, Patriots and in Canada, said it helps him remain active in tennis, golf and other sports at 66.
"It really helps my joints. I had three knee operations. It keeps me going and has other benefits," Alflen said. "The other thing I like, it reduces your bad cholesterol. They even say it increases the libido -- I never noticed it."
Deer antler velvet has been considered a vital medicine in China for more than 2,000 years. Doctors in South Korea use it to treat impotence in men and infertility in women.
Broeder, in presenting his findings at a conference in New Zealand, stressed that more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of antler velvet. Subsequent studies have raised doubts.
A recent report in the New Zealand Medical Journal concluded: "Claims made for velvet antler supplements do not appear to be based upon rigorous research from human trials, although for osteoarthritis the findings may have some promise."
The Baltimore Sun last week quoted a researcher at Johns Hopkins on the difficulty of transferring the benefits of IGF-1 to humans orally.
The Sports Illustrated story said Lewis used the same deer antler spray, which is applied under the tongue, that Williams acknowledged using. BuckPower Deer Velvet comes in capsule form.
Dean Nieves, a vice president with Tampa-based BioProtein Technology, which produces another deer antler spray, said during a radio interview that the amount of IGF-1 contained is negligible and wouldn't trigger a positive test for a banned substance. He said IGF-1 is a natural-occurring hormone that is also present in raw dairy products and beef.
"There's no way to test positive for [IGF-1] in deer antler [spray] unless there are companies out there that do lace their products with [synthetic] hormones," Nieves said on Fox Radio's Jay Mohr Sports. But regarding the benefits of BioProtein Technology's spray, he said: "It's going to help you recover better, feel better."
Alflen, whose TCCD International also manufactures aluminum-free deodorants designed to reduce the risk of cancer, obviously has a financial stake is espousing the virtues of deer antler velvet. He said he was skeptical when he began taking it.
"It's not like taking a cup of coffee and getting that caffeine rush. It's something that gradually builds up after a couple of weeks and you start seeing the benefits," Alflen said. "Last year we ran out of the stuff because Vitamin Shoppe placed so many orders and I didn't have any to take personally. I noticed it about two or three weeks later that my joints were a little sore."
Thanks to all the deer antler buzz around the Super Bowl, it's a problem he could experience again.
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