The weeks leading up to the Super Bowl never fail to produce intriguing storylines.
One of the more fascinating reports, which has yet to be confirmed, involves Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who has been linked to a banned substance.
According to David Epstein and George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated, the substance is an HGH-like deer-antler spray that is thought to have been used during his recovery from a torn triceps muscle.
Lewis suffered the injury in a Week 6 win over the Dallas Cowboys back in October. He would miss the rest of the regular season before returning for the Ravens' AFC Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The following excerpts from the SI article detail how Mitch Ross, the owner of S.W.A.T.S. (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids), allegedly assisted Lewis in his injury rehab during the regular season:
Ross says he provided the products free of charge...All Ross wanted in return, he told Lewis, is for the future Hall of Famer to tell the truth -- that he used S.W.A.T.S. products -- when he returned to the field.
Ross prescribed a deluxe program, including holographic stickers on the right elbow; copious quantities of the powder additive; sleeping in front of a beam-ray light programmed with frequencies for tissue regeneration and pain relief; drinking negatively charged water; a 10-per-day regimen of the deer-antler pills that will "rebuild your brain via your small intestines" (and which Lewis said he hadn't been taking, then swallowed four during the conversation); and spritzes of deer-antler velvet extract (the Ultimate Spray) every two hours.
Lewis has played a key role in all three of Baltimore's postseason wins this January and is obviously a huge reason why the team is playing for a Super Bowl title this coming weekend. The 37-year-old, who is set to retire at season's end (via the Baltimore Sun), leads all postseason players with 44 combined tackles.
Do you think Ray Lewis used a banned substance?
While Lewis denied working with S.W.A.T.S. in the report, being implicated with a performance-enhancing substance could very well damage his legacy. He hasn't failed any drug tests in his 17-year NFL career, though, so it's difficult to draw any conclusions at this time.
Nonetheless, Lewis is sure to be grilled in the coming days as he fields questions from the hoards of reporters covering the Super Bowl. The process got under way during media day, when the 13-time Pro Bowler responded to the accusations with the following (via Yahoo! Sports):
"Two years ago that was the same report, I wouldn't give that report or him any of my press," Lewis said during his press conference, which was broadcast on the NFL Network. "He's not worthy of that. Next question."
While Lewis is doing his best to discount the report, it will be interesting to see if he can continue fending off the topic leading up to the big game.