by Ryan Meehan
As the Baltimore Ravens were on the team bus headed to media day, coach John Harbaugh was alerted of a story that was just breaking involving Ray Lewis. Lewis finds his last NFL surrounded by controversy due to speculation that he may have taken a banned substance in order to speed up his recovery from a torn tricep injury that he suffered in a game against the Dallas Cowboys this fall. Given that it is very early on in the story’s life cycle we’d like to introduce to you a brand new segment called “What We Know Now”, which will allow us to report stories that have just broke but are still young so there is a certain speculation that remains.
What We Know Now:
Sports Illustrated is reporting that a man named Mitch Ross, who runs a company called “SWATS” (which is an acronym for Sports With Alternatives to Steroids”) gave Lewis a product that was made out of deer antler extract to help him recover from his injury. This substance is currently on the NFL’s banned substances list so Lewis using the product would be a violation of league rules. Christopher Key, Ross’s partner in SWAT, said that ”IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor, is a natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth. We have deer that we harvest out of New Zealand. Their antlers are the fastest-growing substance on planet Earth … because of the high concentration of IGF-1. We’ve been able to freeze dry that out, extract it, put it in a sublingual spray that you shake for 20 seconds and then spray three [times] under your tongue. … This stuff has been around for almost 1,000 years. This is stuff from the Chinese.”
He also went on to say that Lewis had taken “everything he possibly could” to try and speed up the recovery process. The Ravens informed Ray to continue to defend himself and deny the accusations completely. What we do know at the moment is that Ray Lewis will play in Super Bowl XLVII, without question. The NFL has stated that they are looking into this matter and that they will investigate by all means necessary, but it’s almost unheard of to think that they will find anything that will turn this into a gametime decision for the Commissioner.
What We Don’t Know At The Moment:
Of course, we don’t know if any of this is even true. As Ray said when defending himself, Ross has been sued for this before so it’s still up in the air. He has however, claimed that Ray-Ray told him “Just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this week”. But we don’t know how or if that actually happened, and another thing we don’t know is the method by which these communications took place. We haven’t seen any cell phone records, no text messages, and Ross hasn’t come forward with any concrete evidence to present to the media outside of the Sports Illustrated article which we haven’t even seen yet. As for SI.com, there is zero mention of this on their mobile homepage as they are likely holding out for the kill on this one.
What seems suspicious about Lewis denying the allegations:
Although Ray is a professional athlete, and professional athletes tend to recover from injuries much faster than “regular people” (for lack of a better term) is does seem like Ray returned to action rather quickly. Since there are some doubts about his character anyway, anything like this is going to be met with some level of suspicion. Additionally, Lewis has played the “God Squad” card rather early in this one…saying that this is “the trick of the devil”, which according to Lewis is “to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you’re trying to do.” As a Christian, it always blows me away how people will drag “the devil” into a discussion where he isn’t collecting a paycheck. This has nothing to do with the devil, it’s a completely unrelated topic that is a question of how Lewis’s tricep function was able to improve so quickly from such a severe injury.
Which leads me to my biggest suspicion involving the whole accusation – That seems like an awfully serious injury to recover from that soon, does it not? Lewis was injured against Dallas in week six. He came back and started Wild Card weekend and he’s been killing it all over the field as if the injury never happened. I’m no expert on tricep rehabilitation, but it still seems awfully fast to me.
What seems suspicious about the allegations to begin with:
The obvious one here is the fact that this seems awfully close to the Super Bowl, and that Ross and Key had almost a month in which Lewis was active in the NFL playoffs to come out and say something and the news broke the morning of Media Day? Hmmm… And also, why would he feel the need to rat Lewis out, and in the same breath rat out himself? He’s supposedly running this business that provides alternatives to steroid use, but now he’s telling America’s biggest sports publication that a guy bought steroids from him? That doesn’t seem to me to be a very ringing endorsement for his business. There are so many different athletic commissions in the United States and abroad that test for steroids, and once this story breaks this substance will be redflagged by every single one of those commissions.
I could understand why they might feel the need to share this info with SI if they were under investigation by a local or state police department that was pressuring them to give some major names, but judging by their website they are still in business and don’t appear to be under a whole lot of legal scrutiny here. It seems to me like this place was trying to get their name out there for advertising purposes, and because there has been very little hype leading up to this year’s Super Bowl now is a prime time to do it. And when you think about it, the thing about a lot of these non-professional gym rat shitheads that don’t play sports is they are always looking for a new supplement dealer. I can almost guarantee you that within months this joint’s revenue will have tripled, and it will be all due to this. Even if they are found to be not credible, they still got one hell of an advertisement on an international level and they didn’t pay a single dime.
If He Did Use:
To be brutally honest with you, if he did use this stuff the only part that really bothers me as a fan is the fact that he lied about it. But since it’s procedure that the NFL cares about, that will be the reason they go after him. I don’t understand the whole “banned substances” thing in great detail, but I do know that the players are provided with updated lists of what they can and can’t take. And even if the players aren’t reading those lists, the trainers are and are doing their best to make sure that there’s no way they’re getting in the players’ systems because they don’t want to lose their job. But then again if the player recovers fast, performs well, and doesn’t get caught it could be a huge career moment for the trainer. That’s why the steroid argument gets so messy…because it’s almost impossible to know which trainer is just going by the rulebook and which trainer is taking shortcuts to make sure their players perform better. To make matters even more complicated, you know that there are trainers out there that may not be honest with their players with regards to what they are giving them.
All that said, if he DID use this substance, it’s a spray that goes into his mouth so it’s not like it’s something that a trainer could just “slip” into his Gatorade. He knew goddamn well he used it, and that leads me to wonder if the league is going to ask that the Ravens turn over surveillance videotapes of their practices and locker room activities. And I wonder that because from everything I gather, this is not a spray that you simply spray on once and just wait for the magic to happen. This is a spray that is taken repeatedly, so if that’s the case and Lewis was using it, there HAS to be footage of him doing so. And since the league has every team’s practice record on file, they won’t be able to destroy the tape where he takes it…if there is one.
If He Didn’t Use:
If he didn’t use, he’s in the clear as far as I’m concerned. There are certain aspects of his personality that lead me to believe that he is a complete tool, but at the same time if he’s being wrongly accused I hope he sues the shit out of that guy and wins. The most fucked up part of the whole “the truth will set you free” argument is the fact that it really does, so for Lewis’s sake I hope that’s the case. What I would be most concerned about if these allegations are false, is the fact that Sports Illustrated needs to start either 1) taking some responsibility for when they incorrectly report a story like this, 2) be a little bit more careful when it comes to checking their sources before they run a story like this one, or 3) I don’t know…maybe both of those things? This is supposed to Sports Illustrated, it’s not a high school newspaper.
This will be the first a series of columns where we attempt to look at what we know about a recent sports story. We don’t know if Ray Lewis used deer antler extract, and that’s the one thing that we do know. In the coming weeks after the Super Bowl, I’m sure more and more information will come out regarding this substance and its link to Ray and/or other NFL players. Until that time comes, it’s all just speculation.