Deer antler spray was nothing, says ex-Cowboy

2:56 PM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
Former Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys player Tony Casillas on the Sooners' sidelines during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies in the 2013 Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.(Photo: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
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Chris Strauss, USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL defensive lineman Tony Casillas scoffed at the "deer antler spray" madness that surrounded Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis during Super Bowl, telling a Dallas radio show Wednesday that his Cowboys teammates in the 1990s were fond of their own obscure potential enhancement product, a horrific smelling veterinary ointment known as DMSO.

Via Dallas Morning News:
"When I heard about deer antler spray, I said that's nothing. We used to use this stuff called DMSO. That's what veterinarians put on horses' muscles and we used it in the locker room. We had a bottle and you'd take it. It goes right to the blood stream," Casillas told KRLD-FM. "I'm not sure about this deer antler stuff, but it was prevalent in our locker room. It's called DMSO. You get it from the veterinarian. It's an ointment that's like anti-inflammatory. You put it on your skin and you put it on a muscle, and I guarantee you, in about 30 minutes you'd feel great. If you're going to talk about the deer antler stuff, we used DMSO and people knew it. Everyone knew about it."

Casillas is right. DMSO, which is short for dimethyl sulfoxide, certainly wasn't a secret in the 80s and 90s, as players openly discussed the medication, which was unapproved by major sports leagues at the time but wasn't exactly banned either. The wood byproduct, which is currently only approved for human use by the FDA as a preservative of organs for transplant and for interstitial cystitis, a bladder disease, was mostly obtained through veterinarians, who used it as an anti-inflammatory on horses and other large animals.

When you think about the secrecy of today's NFL drug testing policies and the very strict list of banned substances, it's amazing to revisit this Sports Illustrated feature from 1981 where various athletes openly discussed their use of the ointment.

Here are some key outtakes from the nearly 32-year-old story...

The product's smell:
"The new odor, a commingling of the vapors of turpentine, rotten eggs and old oysters, comes from dimethyl sulfoxide, better known as DMSO, the controversial and often illegally used drug hailed by a growing legion of amateur and professional athletes who view it as a panacea for many ills ranging from sprained ankles to tendinitis and ripped muscles."

How University of Oregon long-distance runners obtained DMSO:
"A guy in our neighborhood has a dog with arthritis. Vets prescribe DMSO for it, and we all borrow the dog. He's been to more vets than any dog in America."

Former Raiders quarterback Daryl Lamonica:
"A lot of us used it-Pete Banaszak, Jim Otto, Ben Davidson, other guys. And the only side effect we ever noticed was body odor and incredibly bad breath. It's a smell you don't forget. I got on an elevator in Washington after testifying and I smelled it. I was so excited I yelled. 'Who's using DMSO around here?" and a guy raised his hand."

The entire story is worth a read, if only as an example that no matter the era, plenty of athletes are going to seek out whatever ridiculous products they can if they think it'll somehow give them a competitive advantage on the field.


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