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Ray Lewis’ imaginary deer-antler scandal

  • Joe Ray
Was Ray Lewis the victim of an imaginary steroid scandal? (Credit: AP Photo)

Was Ray Lewis the victim of an imaginary steroid scandal? (Credit: AP Photo)

The Manti Te’o hoax was one of the top sports stories of 2012. Te’o, now entering the 2013 NFL Draft, could end up falling to the bottom of the first round, where the Baltimore Ravens have the 32nd pick. Could Te’o, the most inspirational college football player of 2012 and probably the victim of a major hoax, be succeeding Ray Lewis, one of the most inspirational NFL players of all time?

Turns out the connection doesn’t stop there. An article in the Bloomberg View by Jonathan Mahler reports that the deer-antler spray that Lewis obtained does not contain unusual amounts of the growth hormone IGF-1. Deadspin, the website that broke the Manti Te’o hoax wide open, published Mahler’s article Thursday afternoon, which calls the scandal around Lewis “imaginary”.

What we have here, in the words of Millard Baker, who has been studying PEDs for more than a decade and runs the website, is “an imaginary steroid scandal.”

Mahler states that the contents of deer-antler spray include IGF-1, but not nearly enough to have the regenerative effects that it has been suggested to have.

It isn’t considered a drug, though it has long been used in Chinese medicine and has more recently become a popular dietary supplement, with aggressive marketing claims that it can help consumers not only build muscle but also slow down the aging process.

The supporting research isn’t exactly unequivocal. According to the nonprofit organization Anti-Doping Research, deer antler has been shown in animal tests to increase oxygen uptake, as well as red and white blood cell production. But when it comes to human beings — let alone elite athletes — it hasn’t demonstrated much value as a performance-enhancer.

In other words, you’re better off getting your IGF-1 elsewhere. And anyway, IGF-1 isn’t effectively delivered by pill or spray. It has to be injected.

The questions initially surrounded Lewis when Sports Illustrated ran this article that alleged Lewis knowingly used deer-antler spray to help speed his recovery from a torn triceps muscle.

Lewis wasn’t the first NFL player to be confronted about deer-antler spray. Linebacker David Vobora successfully sued Sports With Alternatives to Steroids (S.W.A.T.S.), the same group Lewis acquired the product from, for $5.1 million after finding that his deer-antler spray had been contaminated with methyltestosterone, which is also on the NFL’s banned substances list. Shawne Merriman was also identified as a client of S.W.A.T.S.

Lewis avoided more scrutiny due to the fact that the supplier of the deer-antler spray, Mitch Ross, never saw Lewis actually use the spray. Still, Lewis probably could have ducked out of this scandal for good without people truly knowing whether or not he used a performance-enhancing drug to come back for his legendary final run. But with this scientific analysis coming to light, perhaps this was all just a frenzy that never should have happened. Perhaps we can all look back at Lewis’ captivating final ride without any asterisks hanging around.

Joe has been writing for the Sports-Kings since July 2012, covering football and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @jpray_SK.

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