University of Alabama

Alabama sends cease-and-desist letters to supplement compnay

The University of Alabama has released two cease-and-desist letters to a Fultondale-based supplement company featured in a Sports Illustrated story.

According to Sports Illustrated, some Alabama football players listened to a presentation by one of the owners of S.W.A.T.S. — Sports with Alternatives to Steroids — two nights before beating LSU in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9, 2012.

The SI report was released online Tuesday and the print publication is set to come out Monday. The report says Christopher Key, one of two owners of S.W.A.T.S. spoke to the players about the effect cellphones inside the Superdome would have on their energy level. He was promoting stickers he claimed would negate the effects of cellphone frequencies. He also touted "negative water" to help with hydration and deer antler spray. The report quotes experts debunking any of this would work.

The story names three Alabama players as attending the meeting: linebackers Adrian Hubbard and Alex Watkins and defensive lineman Quinton Dial. All three played in the game, although none of them started or made a tackle.

The university released to selected media organizations the two cease-and-desist letters, which were published online.

Jonathan Bowling of Alabama's compliance office sent the first letter March 30, 2009, telling S.W.A.T.S. co-owner Mitch Ross his company could not use the name or likeness of current student-athletes for sale or advertising. Bowling wrote doing so "without his or her knowledge or permission can jeopardize the student-athlete's eligibility to participate in intercollegiate athletics."

The second letter was sent Oct. 31, 2012, by email from Matt Self of the Alabama compliance office to Key.

It refers to "several YouTube videos, implying contact with and use of your products by University of Alabama student-athletes." It also refers to Keys apparently providing discounted or free samples of his products.

Self mentions NCAA Bylaw 16.02.3, which deals with extra benefits: "This includes any benefits or discount that is not available to the public at large."

The Sports Illustrated report mentions a YouTube video in which Watkins promotes products by S.W.A.T.S., although it didn't come up in a search of YouTube on Tuesday night.

A news release by Sports Illustrated calls the report, written by senior writers David Epstein and George Dohrmann, "Snake Oile for Sale -- and the Athletes Who, Science Be Damned, Think It Might Work."

The report claims NFL linebackers Ray Lewis and Shawne Merriman, pro golfer Vijay Singh, NFL defensive end Richard Seymour, former major league outfielder Johnny Damon, and former NFL running back Jamal Lewis have used S.W.A.T.S.'s productcs. Ross and Key reportedly recorded phone calls and meetings with their clients and shared them with Epstein and Dohrmann, including the Jan. 7, 2012, meeting with some Alabama players and family members.

According to a release from Sports Illustrated, David Vobora, an NFL linebacker for four years with St. Louis and Seattle, failed a test in June 2009 for methyltestosterone and was suspended for four games. He sued S.W.A.T.S. and won a judgement in 2011 for $5.4 million.