San Francisco vs. Baltimore
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Radio: 1380 AM, 106.7 FM
NEW ORLEANS — Smiling, even laughing, at questions about a report linking him to a company that purports to make performance-enhancers, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said Wednesday he “never, ever took” the stuff.
Lewis described himself as “agitated,” not angry, that the story has become part of the Super Bowl-week prelude to Baltimore’s game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
He added that he’s certain his teammates won’t be distracted by the report in Sports Illustrated. The magazine said Lewis sought help from a company that says its deer-antler spray and pills contain a banned product connected to human growth hormone.
The 37-year-old Lewis is the leading tackler in the NFL postseason after returning from a torn right triceps that sidelined him for 10 games.
In a private conversation with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, and later in the public setting of a news conference, Lewis distanced himself from Sports With Alternatives To Steroids.
Sports Illustrated reported that company owner Mitch Ross recorded a call with Lewis hours after the player hurt his arm in an October game against Dallas. According to the report, Lewis asked Ross to send him deer-antler spray and pills, along with other items made by the company.
“It’s so funny of a story because I never, ever took what he says or whatever I was supposed to do.”
The magazine reported that when it spoke to Lewis for its story, he acknowledged asking Ross for “some more of the regular stuff” on the night of the injury and that he has been associated with the company “for a couple years.”
Lewis’ stance Wednesday was different.
“He told me there’s nothing to it. ... He’s told us in the past, he’s told us now, that he’s never taken any of that stuff, ever,” Harbaugh said.
“And I believe Ray. I trust Ray completely. We have a relationship. I know this man. And I know what he’s all about.”
Christopher Key, a co-owner of SWATS, said in a telephone interview that the company removed from its website NFL players’ endorsements because “all the players were given letters by the NFL two years ago saying they had to cease and desist and could not continue to do business with us anymore.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that but did not respond to other requests for comment about the company or Lewis’ involvement.
Key said the deer-antler products made by SWATS “helped the body repair, regrow and rejuvenate” and that “you will never fail a drug test from taking our product.”
He added that SWATS has sold its products to more than 20 college football players each at Southeastern Conference schools Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, LSU and Georgia.
Alabama has sent two cease-and-desist letters to the company, university spokeswoman Debbie Lane said, adding: “UA has been aware of this situation for some time, and we have monitored this company for several years.”
Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson said that school sent a cease-and-desist letter in 2011.