Ray Lewis Denies Deer Antler Velvet Use - but Sales Surge Anyway

Sales are soaring for deer antler, a dietary supplement banned by the NFL.

ByABC News
January 31, 2013, 1:55 PM

Jan. 31, 2013— -- What's the best way to get consumers to buy your product?

Have a sports star deny ever using it.

To wit: Deer antler, a controversial dietary supplement banned by the NFL that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, 37, has claimed he never used, is selling better than ever.

"This is probably one of the biggest sales days for it since when we launched it about a year ago," Brianne Vaskovardzic, director of marketing for Private Label Nutraceuticals, a private label dietary and nutritional supplement manufacturer in Atlanta, told ABC News. The company, which sells to retailers and not consumers, manufactures six products containing deer antler velvet, a coating that appears on antlers while they grow. The substance contains a high concentration of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), and is similar to human growth hormone in the body.

"We've depleted our current in-house stock, but we have more coming in tomorrow," she said.

READ MORE: Lewis Refutes Report

A staple of traditional Chinese medicine, deer antler velvet supposedly restores balance to the body and improves athletic performance. Not only is it banned by the NFL, but also the NCAA and every major professional sports league.

But consumers don't seem to care.

Vincent Temis, a sales manager at Wild Miracle, Inc., in Fairfax, Va., which sells three different deer antler products ranging from $34.99 to $59.99, told ABC News over the past few days that sales have increased "probably 50 or 60 percent."

"The publicity increased over the past couple of days and people are wondering if it is really a good product," he said.

Vaskovaradzic also attributed the increase to the media attention.

"When a sports figure talks about a supplement, it always piques an interest in people," she said. "The exposure has really brought it to life and it's got this mystique about it. Given that it's a legal product but banned in the NFL, that's the controversy right now."

READ MORE: NFL Fines Lewis $250,000

"We've done eight times the business we normally do in each of the past couple days," Curtis Fouts, owner of Southern Cross Velvet, which has been selling variations of the product for 15 years, told ESPN.

According to Fouts, over the last eight years, sales have jumped from $8,000 a year to $350,000.

Sports Illustrated recently reported that, in October, Lewis, who was suffering from a torn triceps, inquired about products from S.W.A.T.S. (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids), which makes items with deer antler velvet.