Lewis denies using banned deer antler spray
NEW ORLEANS — Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is a man of many faces, many personalities, many talents, many words.
But during an eminently successful career that has been oft-celebrated and oft-debated, one of those words never has been “Cheater.”
What was supposed to be coronation week for a soon-to-retire player who is respected around the NFL for his advocacy of playing the game right and with respect transformed Tuesday into a second major Super Bowl controversy for him. Lewis was forced to deny allegations he used deer antler extract, which contains a banned substance that would violate the NFL's rules against steroids.
There is no danger that Lewis could be kept from playing against the 49ers in the Super Bowl because he could appeal any finding, a process that would last far past Sunday.
Much like his last Super Bowl appearance during the 2000 season, Lewis — essentially a middle linebacker in the Ravens' hybrid defense — was the man in the middle during Super Bowl Media day.
Then, he was asked repeatedly to discuss his involvement in the deaths of two men in Atlanta that occurred a year before — an unsolved case that is raising questions at this Super Bowl, too.
Now, according to a Sports Illustrated report, Lewis called up a business known as Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (SWATS) more than three months ago and asked for help in dealing with a torn triceps that threatened to end his season and, possibly, his career. According to the business' co-owner, Mitch Ross, one of the products Lewis obtained was the deer antler spray, which contains a banned substance known as IGF-1.
Lewis denied the report and called the allegation “stupidity.”
“Any test I ever took in the NFL? There's never been a question if I even thought about using anything,” said Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
However, Ross said he has known Lewis for years, first meeting him through former Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson, now a Bengals assistant.
“Two years ago, it was the same report,” Lewis said, citing a previous SI report linking Jackson and, through him, Lewis to SWATS. “I wouldn't give that report or him any of my press. He's not worthy. Next question?”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh strongly supported the Ravens' on-field and emotional leader, saying, “Ray has passed every test for substance abuse that he's taken throughout his athletic career.”
Still, the allegation couldn't come at a worse time for Lewis, who announced several weeks ago he would retire after this season. Several teammates have cited the emotional edge and leadership Lewis has provided since returning from the triceps injury; he actually is playing better statistically than he was before he was hurt.
The Ravens reportedly met with Lewis on Tuesday to discuss the article.
In New Orleans, Lewis also has been asked multiple times about the Atlanta case in which he plead guilty to obstruction of justice. He now appears to be wearying of those questions, too.
“Nobody here is really qualified to ask me those questions,” Lewis said. “I would rather direct questions in other places. I live with that every day. You can take a break from it.”
For Lewis, that day won't come until at least Monday.