The Ravens have not spoken to star linebacker Ray Lewis about a Yahoo Sports story linking him to a substance banned by the NFL, but team officials said Thursday they plan to.
The story published this week by Yahoo Sports claims that Lewis may have acquired a supplement that contains human growth hormone.
"Ray is one person that I think that we all can talk to, and he'll explain any and everything to us about what he's doing [and] why he's doing it," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "So, if need be, we'll have that conversation."
Newsome, however, said he believes that the NFL has the strictest drug testing policy of all the major American sports, and if a player were using something, he would likely be caught.
When reminded by The Baltimore Sun that human growth hormone cannot be detected without a blood test, and that the current collective bargaining agreement only allows a player's urine to be tested, Newsome and Ravens president Dick Cass said they didn't feel comfortable commenting further until they have talked to Lewis.
"I've read the report, but we haven't had a chance to really follow up and see what's behind it," Cass said. "We'll obviously look into it. It's really hard to comment when we haven't really talked to Ray and really don't know the facts yet."
The NFL's drug policy states that players are responsible for whatever they put into their bodies, regardless of whether they are unaware a supplement may contain a banned substance.
The Sun was unable to reach Lewis for comment. He has never been sanctioned by the NFL for a failed drug test during his career.
The report, published Wednesday night, stated that the NFL had ordered Raiders head coach Hue Jackson to sever ties with a company called Sports With Alternative To Steroids, in part because the company markets a product called "The Ultimate Spray" which contains IGF-1, a substance banned by the NFL, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The owner of the company, Mitch Ross, told Yahoo Sports that it supplied Jackson, who was the Ravens quarterback coach in 2008 and 2009, with free products, including The Ultimate Spray. He then distributed it to Lewis as well as several other NFL players. The "Ultimate Spray," according to the company website, is made from crushed deer velvet antlers, which contain IGF-1. According to claims made by various websites that sell deer velvet, the substance improves immune system functioning, improves athletic performance, and speeds up muscle recovery.
Dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration until after they reach the market, and companies do not need to register or seek approval from the FDA before selling their products, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.
On the S.W.A.T.S. website, swatsteam.com, Lewis is one of several NFL players to allegedly offer a testimonial endorsing the company's products, although "The Ultimate Spray" is not mentioned in Lewis' statement. He instead mentions two of the company's other products, Athletic Performance Chips and Pain Management Chips. The testimonial was no longer posted on the site by Thursday evening
"My first experience using the swats athletic performance chip was in [organized team activities] in the spring of 2008," Lewis is quoted as saying. "Coach Hue Jackson gave them to me before practice and I liked it. Then in the fall, Coach Jackson gave me some more APCs and Pain Management Chips. I used the pain chips on my lower back (where I have pain issues)."
Yahoo Sports reported it saw text messages between Ross and a number registered to Lewis discussing The Ultimate Spray, and that the person texting from Lewis' phone asked for more of the product.
Former Ravens Jamal Lewis, Frank Walker, Gary Stills and Lorenzo Williams are also among the NFL players allegedly offering testimonials for S.W.A.T.S., according to quotes on the website.
S.W.A.T.S., which also lists "Athletes Competing Without Cheating" as one of its slogans, bills its products as anti-steroids, and says its primary goal focuses on "Christian role models teaching all athletes — from youth athletes to professionals — about character and staying drug free from steroids as well as recreational drugs and alcohol."