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January 31, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Deer antler spray: What’s so weird about that?

Corrected version

I was looking forward to a week in which we would read heartwarming stories about the Harbaugh brothers coaching their way to the Super Bowl. Instead, we’re pointing and laughing at Ray Lewis about deer-antler spray.

The Ravens linebacker is denying allegations that he uses deer-antler spray, which was reported by Sports Illustrated. Lewis, who has led Baltimore’s football team to Sunday’s national championship game, supposedly used the spray to recover from a torn right triceps. The spray contains IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor that is banned by the NFL, according to SI. Lewis says he is “agitated,” not angry about SI’s report, according to this AP story.

Deer antler? I’m familiar with this banned substance. My mom kept a packet of deer antler powder in our fridge when I was growing up, along with ginseng, dried red dates, goji berries and a pantry of Chinese herbs. When I asked her what it was for, she said it made you healthier.

My mom, who grew up in Hong Kong, routinely brewed medicinal tonics that boosted immunity, treated colds and protected our bodies from cancer. I don’t know whether they worked, but my parents, brother and I are still here. She also is a registered nurse, trained in England and Hong Kong and certified in the U.S. We used antibiotics and vaccines, but she believed in using both allopathic and traditional Chinese medicine to keep us healthy.

I won’t be tittering over the phrase “deer antler spray.” Because in my family — and a culture shared by 1.3 billion people — it is no weirder than taking a vitamin.

An earlier version of this blog post, published on Jan. 31, 2013 at 8:03 a.m., was corrected at 10:59 a.m. The earlier version incorrectly stated that Ray Lewis was a quarterback. He is a linebacker.

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