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Of Ray Lewis and deer antler extract

By Pat McManamon

Deer. Antler. Extract.

Those are words I never expected to type in this pitiful career.

Heck, just the words “deer” and “antler” coming off this keyboard are pretty unusual.

Which pretty much shows that I don’t run in the same circles as professional athletes, thank goodness for them.

Ray Lewis has again proven that athletes will do almost anything to get on the field — and stay on the field. Shady, unproven, back rooms, wacky science, liquid from an antler … they’ll go anywhere to get an edge.

Lewis was accused in a Sports Illustrated story of using deer antler extract to help heal a torn triceps muscle so he could play again this season.

Two things can be said at this point.

First, Lewis’ comeback to an injury most consider season-ending was pretty remarkable.

Second, deer have never gotten such national pub.

The story also illustrates why Lewis is so polarizing. He’s a great player, but he was there in Atlanta when two kids from Akron were murdered 13 years ago. He works out like mad, but his voice was taped asking for deer antler stuff from a place called S.W.A.T.S. — Sports With Alternatives to Steroids.

Lewis pointed out he had never tested positive in his NFL life, a fact the Ravens also put out. Except that IGF-1, the ingredient in deer antler extract, can only be detected by a blood test. and the NFL does not have blood testing. (IFG-1 is banned by the NFL because it is the product that Human Growth Hormone breaks down to in the body.)

So Lewis’ claim about no failed test could be looked on as a classic non-denial denial.

Though he did issue stronger denials later, and on Wednesday.

Let’s not make this deer stuff into proven science. It’s not. And SI does not claim it is.

But the circumstantial evidence is pretty overwhelming. The guy who runs the “lab” that gives it out claimed Jamal Lewis used 40 bottles of deer antler spray (it goes under the tongue) in 2007. That was the year Lewis, an aging back, gained 1,304 yards for the Browns.

Again, no proof, but some strong evidence.

Former Browns lineman Joe DeLamielleure even uses it now to ward off post-career concussion symptoms, according to SI.

Too, there are court documents from a lawsuit filed by former NFL linebacker David Vobora over the ingredients in the deer antler stuff, so there are court documents about it..

And there are taped conversations with several players, among them Lewis.

This entire thing clearly shows that players will go to any lengths to gain an edge. Any lengths.

Rafeael Palmiero will wag his finger at Congress and say he never took steroids, then test positive. Guys who tested positive blame the positive test on the most exotic stuff imaginable. One player I covered lost 40 pounds after knee surgery. This was back in the days when guys were on crutches for weeks after surgery; yet the guy lost 40 pounds when he was sedentary and couldn’t work out.

Why does this deer stuff matter?

Because if it’s true, then Lewis cheated.

If Lewis did it, he took something that was against the rules, and he cheated.

He’s no different from Mark McGwire, Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez — all those who cheated the greats of baseball and produced inflated numbers.

And too, why does a double murder form 13 years ago still matter? Because two young lives were lost. It might not be fair to continually bring it up to him, but Lewis was there when two young Akron lives were lost, and he told people to be quiet about what happened, and did something with his clothes from that night because they were never found. He was charged with murder, took a plea bargain and went on with his life.

Now he’s glorified for playing football, enabled all the way by the sycophants who make him into a hero because he can tackle a guy and make a spectacle of himself. Great player? No doubt. But when the four-letter network brings on two analysts and one calls a double murder a bonding element for the Ravens in the following Super Bowl, and when another calls SI’s well-reported and exhaustive story “antics” as if it’s something out to “distract” Lewis, something seems a little bit off.

Stories are reported, and when they’re ready, they’re printed, or ran online, or whatever. The story might have been timed for Super Bowl — big stories used to be held for the Sunday paper — but there was never a guarantee that Lewis would be in the Super Bowl. Given the reporting, it’s hard to imagine that story not taking some time to report and write. The story had detailed information about a lot of people other than Lewis, including the University of Alabama.Yet all the talking heads can discuss is how the story was nonsense timed to upset him, and what a great player Ray Lewis is.

Imagine if some of this season’s success might have been made possible by some liquid taken from deer antler harvested in New Zealand.

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