Ray Lewis is preparing to play one of the biggest games of his life, but on Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday he had to answer a number of questions after reports came out that he used performance enhancing drugs to return from an injury he had this season.
A report in Sports Illustrated detailed a company that sells certain products called Sports with Alternative to Steroids and said that Lewis approached the company's owner Mitch Ross to obtain deer-antler velvet extract, which contains IGF-1, which is on the NFL's list of banned substances. Using the spray would be a violation of the NFL's steroids policy.
On Tuesday Lewis refuted the notion and did not give specific comments on the story.
"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."
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said he found out about the SI story during the team's bus ride to the Superdome for media day.
"I have not talked to Ray about that personally," Harbaugh said. "What I do know about that is Ray has worked incredibly and extremely hard to get back, so I hate to see anything diminish the work ethic that he's put in to get to where he is right now. And my understanding is Ray has passed every random, you know, substance test that he's taken throughout the course of his whole career. So there's never been a test that's shown up anything along those lines."
The last time Lewis played in the Super Bowl he had to deal with questions about his past murder trial, now he is under the microscope again.
So what exactly is deer antler extract?
The spray can help athletes recover from injuries faster due to the presence of small amounts of deer IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1), which is what the liver converts HGH into, resulting in artificially enhanced muscle regeneration and growth, according to ESPN.com.
The company in the report, which is run by two men, one of which is Christopher Key, who was quoted in the Sports Illustrated report talking to the University of Alabama football team the night before the team faced Louisiana State University in the 2012 BCS national championship game:
"We have deer that we harvest out of New Zealand," Key said. "Their antlers are the fastest-growing substance on planet Earth . . . because of the high concentration of IGF-1. We've been able to freeze dry that out, extract it, put it in a sublingual spray that you shake for 20 seconds and then spray three [times] under your tongue. . . . This stuff has been around for almost 1,000 years, this is stuff from the Chinese."
DeerAntlerSpray.org says the substance can be a great help to athletes:
"The side effect of this is that by using deer antler spray one can improve athletic performance, simulate the metabolism, improve the overall condition of the heart, and help fight off colds and flu, the site says. "By allowing the body to burn off more stored sugars and require the burning of fat stores to fuel increased muscle use, this spray can do a lot in way of rejuvenation on the body. This may help with nerve damage repair as well."
According to a CNBC study, the deer antler spray can help with performance.
"A group of scientists took 32 male weight lifters and gave half of them New Zealand Deer Antler Velvet and half of them a placebo for 10 weeks," CNBC reports. "While the placebo group didn't show any difference in bench or squat tests, those given deer antler velvet saw an increase of 4 percent on the bench press and 10.1 percent on the squat test as compared to the placebo group. The scientists also reported that there was a 'significant improvement in aerobic capacity' with the group that was taking deer antler velvet."