Updated Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 11:06 AM
NEW ORLEANS — Twelve years after his first appearance in the Super Bowl was disrupted by questions about his legal problems in Atlanta, Ray Lewis was back on that stage Tuesday, again being asked to defend his integrity and reputation.
Hours after a Sports Illustrated story surfaced that alleged Lewis used a banned substance to accelerate his return from a torn triceps injury earlier this season, the Baltimore Ravens' linebacker emphatically denied using performance-enhancing drugs in an hourlong session with reporters at Super Bowl media day.
"I'm going to say it again, that was a two-year old story that you want me to refresh. I wouldn't give him the credit to even mention his name or his antics in my speeches or my moment," said Lewis, who will retire after Sunday's title game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "I can't do it, so I won't even speak about it.
"I've been in this business for 17 years, and nobody has ever gotten up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test I've ever took in the NFL, there's never been a question if I ever even thought about using anything. To even entertain stupidity like that, tell him to try and get his story out with somebody else."
"Him" is Mitch Ross, a co-owner of Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (SWATS). Ross told Sports Illustrated that upon Lewis' request, he provided the 37-year-old with products aimed at speeding up his recovery from the torn triceps, an injury that occurred Oct. 14. Lewis came back in time for the Jan. 6 playoff opener against the Indianapolis Colts and his return is being cited as one of the factors behind the Ravens' Super Bowl run.
One of the products Lewis was allegedly using was a deer-antler velvet spray, which Sports Illustrated reported including the substance IGF-1. The substance is banned by the league.
Lewis denied using the spray. Ross, meanwhile, maintained in an interview with The Baltimore Sun that he provided a recovery protocol for Lewis after his injury in October that required surgery.
"I was introduced to Ray Lewis by (ex-Ravens quarterbacks coach) Hue Jackson, and I began working with him that year after I was originally supposed to work with (former Ravens quarterback) Steve McNair," Ross said. "As soon as I saw him hurt his arm against the Dallas Cowboys, I texted Ray. He texted me back after the game and said, 'Possible torn triceps.' Once that was confirmed by the doctors, I asked Ray if he wanted me to set up a program for him and he said, 'Yes.' I got him set up and now he's back on the field.
"It's a shame that Ray is denying taking it. The NFL is uneducated. This is not a steroid. It's not illegal. Ray is not a cheater. He did it the right way. Ray is a good man. He did the work. He rehabbed his arm and did the workouts. This isn't a shortcut. It's just natural science."
Ross emphasized the deer-antler velvet spray that contains IGF-1 is akin to human growth hormone, but is naturally produced in food products.
"Ray worked his butt off to get back out there," Ross said. "I helped Ray get back on the field, but he worked so hard to do that. I made an armband for him to use after a week to strengthen the triceps after he got the stitches out. He shouldn't have to deny anything. It makes no sense to me."
Ravens officials, including coach John Harbaugh, defended Lewis, noting he has never failed a drug test.
Lewis recalled a conversation with a doctor who said his season was over.
"I said, 'Doc, there's no way I'm going to be out for the year with just a torn tricep,' " Lewis said with a laugh. "I said, 'I've been through way worse.' She was like, 'Ray, nobody's never come back from this.' I said, 'Well, nobody's ever been Ray Lewis, either.' "
San Francisco vs. Baltimore, 3:30 p.m., Ch. 7
GEORGE BRIDGES / MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
Linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens listens to a question during Super Bowl media day Tuesday in New Orleans.