To nobody's surprise, Baltimore Ravens Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis has denied allegations that he used deer antler spray while recovering from an injury earlier in the season.
In a report by David Epstein and George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated, allegations came to light that Lewis might have used the banned substance in order to heal his torn triceps injury.
After avoiding the questions a few times, Lewis finally answered during the Super Bowl's media circus with a brief explanation, per Jarrett Bell of USA Today Sports:
"Two years ago, that was the same report," he said. "It's not worthy of the press."
When asked directly whether he had used the spray during his recovery this season, Lewis said, "Nah, never."
Lewis again responded to the report on Wednesday, this time with a more detailed answer, per ESPN.com staff:
"I've been in this game for 17-plus good years, and I have a heck of relationship and too much respect for the business and my body to ever violate like that. For me and my teammates, I promise you that we have a strong group of men that don't bend too much and we keep pushing forward. So it's not a distraction for us," he said.
According to the same report from ESPN.com staff, Ravens team president Dick Cass and other Ravens brass urged Lewis to issue a stronger denial than the one he issued on Media Day:
"We wanted him to issue a strong denial at media day; he didn't do that. He was very strong with us yesterday, and last night. We met with him last night and talked about issuing a strong denial today," Cass told ESPN.
While it's great to see his coach and teammates come out on his behalf to defend him, Lewis' denial and subsequent stronger denial of his use of deer antler spray really means nothing at this point.
Why is that exactly?
As sports fans, we've seen this far too often to take it at the face value Lewis wants us to.
For the better part of the last decade, several stars in the sports world have been accused of using banned substances, only to issue a denial that eventually turns out to be a lie.
Major League Baseball's Mark McGwire is a good example of someone who danced around the truth in regards to his use of performance-enhancing drugs, yet he would later go on to admit he did use the banned substances.
And those are just a few of the numerous top athletes around the globe who have lied. As a result, it has made the rest of us skeptical of anyone reportedly associated with PEDs.
So why should we believe Lewis in this instance?
The only thing working in Lewis' favor is the fact that there is no positive test for a banned substance in his history. That, of course, would be the most hard-hitting proof any of us could see to disprove Lewis' denial.
But we don't have that test. At this point, all we have is a report stating that Lewis used the substance and a denial to the contrary from the player himself. We have no choice but to believe Lewis until more damning evidence surfaces, but the doubts about his honesty will remain.
If that evidence never surfaces, the report will remain just an allegation, and Lewis can ride off into the sunset with only doubt slowing him down. But not enough to tarnish what has been an incredible career.
For the sake of the sport, let's hope it proves to be false and Lewis never used what the report says he used. It would be a huge blow to the league, Lewis and football fans everywhere—especially if something pops up between now and Super Bowl Sunday.