Evidently it can’t be a Ravens Super Bowl media day with out some Ray Lewis controversy.
At Super Bowl XXXV 12 years ago it was Lewis being peppered with questions about his murder trial. On Tuesday Lewis had to deal with the aftermath of Sports Illustrated publishing a report that alleges Lewis knowingly used a banned substance to recover from his torn triceps earlier this season.
The report profiles a company called S.W.A.T.S. (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids), owned by Mitch Ross, an admitted former steroids dealer/gym owner/male stripper (the more you know). After being hit with a lawsuit by a former client who failed a drug test while using the company’s products, Ross began filming his phone calls with clients. One such client was Lewis, who in October hours after tearing his triceps allegedly asked Ross for products to aid his recovery. (Other clients mentioned in the report include Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour and former coach Hue Jackson.)
One of the products Ross allegedly gave Lewis was what the company calls its “Ultimate Spray,” a deer-antler velvet extract spray. But, oops! The Ultimate Spray contains IGF-1, a substance banned by the NCAA and all the major sports leagues. Ross provided SI with the taped conversation:
“It’s bottom, near the elbow,” Lewis said of the tear. After asking a few pseudo diagnostic questions, Ross concluded, “All right, well this is going to be simple. . . . How many pain chips you got around the house?”
“I got plenty of them,” Lewis replied.
Ross prescribed a deluxe program, including holographic stickers on the right elbow; copious quantities of the powder additive; sleeping in front of a beam-ray light programmed with frequencies for tissue regeneration and pain relief; drinking negatively charged water; a 10-per-day regimen of the deer-antler pills that will “rebuild your brain via your small intestines” (and which Lewis said he hadn’t been taking, then swallowed four during the conversation); and spritzes of deer-antler velvet extract (the Ultimate Spray) every two hours.
“Spray on my elbow every two hours?” Lewis asked.
“No,” Ross said, “under your tongue.”
Toward the end of the talk, Lewis asked Ross to “just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this this week.”
Some timeline recapping: Lewis tore his triceps on Oct. 14. On Dec. 5 he returned to practice. And on Jan. 6—against the Colts in the Wild Card round—Lewis played in his first game since the injury.
Naturally, Lewis and the Ravens are vehemently denying the accusations Ross makes in the SI piece. Here’s what a team spokesman told ESPN:
“Ray has been randomly tested for banned substances and has never failed a test. We have never been notified of a failed test. He has never been notified of a failed test. He denied using the substance discussed in the article, and we believe him.”
John Harbaugh also backed his star:
“Ray has worked incredibly hard to get back. I would hate to see anything diminish that,” he said. “My understanding is that he’s passed every random substance test that he’s taken throughout his career.”
Lewis in front of a media firing squad of Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, MTV, Bleacher Report, hot Spanish-language news, late-night talk show reporters, as well as traditional reporters, at media day on Tuesday personally denied the article’s claims:
“That was a two year old story that you want me to refresh. (Ed. note: Lewis is referring to a Yahoo! Sports article about IGF-1 from 2011.) I wouldn’t give [Ross] the credit to even mention his name or his antics in my speeches or my moment. I can’t do it, so I won’t even speak about it. I’ve been in this business 17 years, and nobody has ever gotten up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test I’ve ever taken in the NFL—there’s never been a question if I’ve even though about using anything. So to even entertain stupidity like that, tell him to go get his story off somebody else.”
Well, of course Lewis didn’t fail any tests. Even though IGF-1 is banned by the NFL, the league doesn’t test for it. If your reaction to that sentence is, “Whaaaaa?” that’s a totally normal reaction. In fact, the league only recently agreed to begin testing for HGH, but won’t begin until at least after next season. The same goes for IGF-1.
So, unless Lewis comes clean, which is doubtful to happen, this whole story is ultimately just a non-issue. If anything, it’s a distraction for the Ravens that will probably just end up fading away before the big game on Sunday.
Ladies and gentlemen, your National Football League.