Ray Lewis figured to be the center of attention during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl media day session on Tuesday, but his pending retirement wasn't supposed to be the appetizer to scandal.
Questions about legacy and winning or losing in Lewis' final NFL game, Super Bowl XLVII, took a back seat after reports surfaced the star linebacker may have used a banned substance to help him recover from his torn triceps this season.
Lewis didn't give much of a response when asked about the Sports Illustrated story that broke earlier in the day, one which alleged the 13-time Pro Bowl selection used deer antler spray, which contains IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1), a substance banned by the NFL.
"Two years ago, that was the same report," said Lewis when asked about the allegations.
In the SI report, which was made available on SI.com in a story that will appear in the magazine the day after the big game, Lewis was allegedly taped by 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 me everything you got, because I got to get back on this week."
Lewis suffered a torn triceps in Week 6. The injury is usually considered season-ending, but Lewis returned for the playoffs and has helped the team reach its second Super Bowl.
IGF-1 is a hormone similar to insulin which plays an important role in childhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults. A synthetic analog 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 a question 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 a test. He has never been notified of a failed test," the team said in a release.
That's a red herring, though. IGF-1 can currently only be detected from blood testing and the NFL performs no such tests, a bait-and-switch shell game which has 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 the New Orleans gun show with a number of players taking the opportunity to show off their impressive arms, biceps that would make Hulk Hogan blush.
That doesn't make anyone guilty, but football players have been growing in ways that evolution, training and competent eating habits can't fully explain. The players 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 impossibility and anyone who claims differently is a liar, a con man or both.
Lewis, though, amped up his denials at his media availability Wednesday morning.
"Honestly, and I'm going to say it very clearly again, I think it's one of the most 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 dealing with the story.
"Never angry," Lewis said. "I'm too blessed to be stressed. ... You can use the word 'agitated.'
"It's a joke, if you know me," Lewis continued. "That's the trick of the devil. The trick of the devil 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."
Fair enough -- time to take that bait and play the devil, or at least his advocate.
Things like Human Growth Hormone and IGF-1 are currently the rage among the privileged in sports. While expensive, they are only detectable for a very short period of time through very invasive testing. And you can be sure there are plenty of blood doping techniques and at least a dozen or so other designer steroids we don't even know about yet.
The NFL deserves some credit for being the first major sports league to test for performance-enhancing drugs, but it has been a system without teeth. The league began testing 26 years ago and it has served as more of an IQ bar than anything else. While the Bill Romanowskis of the world skated through their careers, it was the Artie Ulmers and Bob Sapps who were caught in what was and continues to be a tainted dragnet.
As other sports went through more high profile steroid scandals, the NFL ratcheted up its public relations-fueled policy and started random, year-round tests, a tact which seems to have caught a few more players but always seems to ensnare the guilty for things like diuretics and Adderall.
If one famous study says up to 7 percent of high school boys admit to using steroids and the NFL suspends a handful of players per year, what does that say about its policy?
If another claims teenage girls are using PEDs just to look good for their awkward suitors, what are the odds that a few of our comic-booked-sized NFL favorites are gassed?
Let logic answer those questions, not Ray Lewis.