In the wake of baseball's latest PED scandal, the NFL has one of its own. Everyone try to look surprised. This week's issue of Sports Illustrated has a story on supplement company S.W.A.T.S. That stands for Sports with Alternatives to Steroids, the alternative apparently being non-steroidal banned drugs.
One of those substances is IGF-1, a naturally produced anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth. IGF-1 was among the drugs allegedly given to Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, and Yasmani Grandal, and it's closely related to HGH. As such, it's on the list of banned substances for MLB, the NFL, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (a.k.a, the folks who want to ban caffeine).
Mitch Ross, an admitted former steroids dealer, is the owner of S.W.A.T.S. After being sued by former Ram David Vobora, who failed a steroid test, Ross began filming his phone calls with clients. He shared with SI one from October, a call from Ray Lewis, seeking treatment for his torn triceps that would keep him out until the playoffs. Ross prescribed Lewis, among other things, the company's "Ultimate Spray"—a deer-antler extract that contains IGF-1.
"Spray on my elbow every two hours?" Lewis asked.
"No," Ross said, "under your tongue."
Toward the end of the talk, Lewis asked Ross to "just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this this week."
Ray Lewis asking the owner of an embattled supplement company how to use a banned substance? You'd think that would be a huge story, right? Nah. Because the same story came out two years ago and no one cared then.
S.W.A.T.S. founder Mitch Ross provided several text messages from a phone number belonging to All-Pro Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis acknowledging receipt of shipments of the spray and asking for more.
Baseball fans are bouncing off the walls at this point, wondering why so much attention is paid to PED use in MLB but barely at all in the NFL. While PEDs in football are pretty much accepted, the lack of punishment isn't the result of a nation's collective indifference. The NFL, in its infinite wisdom, banned IGF-1—but does not actually test for it. Even if Ray Lewis chugged a bottle of Ultimate Spray before pissing in a cup, he wouldn't get caught.
This shouldn't be surprising. It took until the latest CBA for the NFL and the union to agree to test for HGH, perhaps the most widely used performance enhancer in pro sports. Yet the two sides are still squabbling on how to implement that program, meaning HGH will still not be tested for next season. IGF-1, too, goes untested for.
Football's drug problem isn't a problem because the NFL doesn't treat it like one. And Ray Lewis, who has twice been implicated in banned PED use? He's a respected veteran preparing to go out on top.