(Sports Network) - Ray Lewis figured to be the center of attention during theBaltimore Ravens' Super Bowl media day session on Tuesday, but his pendingretirement wasn't supposed to be the appetizer to scandal.
Questions about legacy and winning or losing in Lewis' final NFL game, SuperBowl XLVII, took a back seat after reports surfaced the star linebacker mayhave used a banned substance to help him recover from his torn triceps thisseason.
Lewis didn't give much of a response when asked about the Sports Illustratedstory that broke earlier in the day, one which alleged the 13-time Pro Bowlselection used deer antler spray, which contains IGF-1 (Insulin-like growthfactor 1), a substance banned by the NFL.
"Two years ago, that was the same report," said Lewis when asked about theallegations.
In the SI report, which was made available on SI.com in a story that willappear in the magazine the day after the big game, Lewis was allegedly tapedby the owner of Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (S.W.A.T.S), Mitch Ross,as asking for help in how to use the spray.
"Spray on my elbow every two hours?" the SI story quotes Lewis as asking Ross.
"No," Ross said, "under your tongue."
The SI story said Lewis later asked Ross to "just pile me up and just send meeverything you got, because I got to get back on this week."
Lewis suffered a torn triceps in Week 6. The injury is usually consideredseason-ending, but Lewis returned for the playoffs and has helped the teamreach its second Super Bowl.
IGF-1 is a hormone similar to insulin which plays an important role inchildhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults. A syntheticanalog of IGF-1, is typically used for the treatment of growth failure.
"I wouldn't give that report or him any of my press. He's not worthy of that,"Lewis said. "Every test I ever took in the NFL ... there's never been aquestion if I've ever thought about using anything."
The Ravens, of course, backed Lewis up.
"Ray has been randomly tested for banned substances and has never failed atest. He has never been notified of a failed test," the team said in arelease.
That's a red herring, though. IGF-1 can currently only be detected from bloodtesting and the NFL performs no such tests, a bait-and-switch shell game whichhas been the tact of the guilty in any sport from Day 1 on this issue.
Speculation is what it is, but Tuesday's media day could have doubled as theNew Orleans gun show with a number of players taking the opportunity to showoff their impressive arms, biceps that would make Hulk Hogan blush.
That doesn't make anyone guilty, but football players have been growing in waysthat evolution, training and competent eating habits can't fully explain. Theplayers aren't just bigger, they are faster, stronger and quicker.
The dirty little secret here is that the NFL's PED policy simply doesn't work,it never has and it never will.
Stopping performance-enhancing drugs in any sport is a virtually impossibilityand anyone who claims differently is a liar, a con man or both.
Lewis, though, amped up his denials at his media availability Wednesdaymorning.
"Honestly, and I'm going to say it very clearly again, I think it's one of themost embarrassing things we can do on this type of stage," Lewis said.
One reporter followed that up by asking Lewis if he was angry about dealingwith the story.
"Never angry," Lewis said. "I'm too blessed to be stressed. ... You can usethe word 'agitated.'
"It's a joke, if you know me," Lewis continued. "That's the trick of thedevil. The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That's what hecomes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you're trying to do."
Fair enough -- time to take that bait and play the devil, or at least hisadvocate.
Things like Human Growth Hormone and IGF-1 are currently the rage among theprivileged in sports. While expensive, they are only detectable for a veryshort period of time through very invasive testing. And you can be sure thereare plenty of blood doping techniques and at least a dozen or so otherdesigner steroids we don't even know about yet.
The NFL deserves some credit for being the first major sports league to testfor performance-enhancing drugs, but it has been a system without teeth. Theleague began testing 26 years ago and it has served as more of an IQ bar thananything else. While the Bill Romanowskis of the world skated through theircareers, it was the Artie Ulmers and Bob Sapps who were caught in what was andcontinues to be a tainted dragnet.
As other sports went through more high profile steroid scandals, the NFLratcheted up its public relations-fueled policy and started random, year-roundtests, a tact which seems to have caught a few more players but always seemsto ensnare the guilty for things like diuretics and Adderall.
If one famous study says up to 7 percent of high school boys admit to usingsteroids and the NFL suspends a handful of players per year, what does that sayabout its policy?
If another claims teenage girls are using PEDs just to look good for theirawkward suitors, what are the odds that a few of our comic-booked-sized NFLfavorites are gassed?
Let logic answer those questions, not Ray Lewis.