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On Second Thought

Deer antler revelations make the PED issue fuzzier

Ray Lewis has denied any link to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Ray Lewis has denied any link to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Ray Lewis, we all know, likes to whip himself into a frenzy before games. CBS cameras on Sunday will zero in on him prior to the Super Bowl kickoff when the legendary Baltimore linebacker performs his ritualistic Godzilla-like dance, the earth quaking with each of his heavy, frenetic gyrations. Intimidation is the man’s oxygen.

So it really wasn’t a shock last week when Lewis, identified by Sports Illustrated as using deer antler velvet extract, so fervently denied that he dabbled in curative, performance-enhancing doses of a Mother Nature booster shot. No way! He’s clean, the big guy insisted, noting that not a single NFL test throughout his career has shown otherwise. Each denial was more adamant, more agitated than the last.

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“It’s not worthy of the press,’’ snorted the man who in 2000 ducked a murder rap in Atlanta by pleading to a misdemeanor obstruction-of-justice charge, in exchange for testifying against two other alleged murderers. The other men were promptly acquitted, and Lewis, his blood-stained suit from the night of the murders never found, walked away with a wrist slap, sentenced to 12 months probation.

Now, setting aside the man’s dodgy off-the-field past, let’s back up here for a second. Deer antler velvet extract. Really? Yes, and the stuff is typically dispensed in spray form, like Right Guard deodorant, WD-40, Pam cooking oil, and myriad makes of perfume. My luck. My fate. My fortune. My word!

Upon first hearing the Lewis accusation, I figured it was yet one more Super Bowl Media Day gag, conflation for the E! Network or TMZ to have and to hold. The thought of some poor slob scraping the velvet off a deer’s antlers, thinking that anyone believed it was worth the bother, was humorous enough. But then ingesting it to be a bigger, better, fiercer, and faster linebacker? Go sell crazy to the CFL.

But then came PGA workhorse Vijay Singh openly admitting that he was a regular user of The Velvet. Singh was named in the same Sports Illustrated report with Lewis. As the week played out, Singh was working on restoring good graces with PGA officials, who have the right to suspend and fine him. Mere hours after world-ranked lothario Tiger Woods nosed his way into the win column again, controversy had another member to rag-doll over the course for a while. These guys are good.

For those who may be equally naive when it comes to the fuzzy stuff on deer antlers (hand up here), it’s not specifically the fuzz or its aerosol form that helps build strong bodies 12 ways or more (wiki: Wonder Bread). Nope. It’s an ingredient found within the fuzz, something called IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor-1, noted in the SI story as a “natural anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth.’’

IGF-1 is banned by both the NFL and PGA, and its quick-healing power could very well be what helped Lewis, who will retire after Sunday’s game, recover so quickly, if not miraculously, from a torn triceps.

Deer antlers. Who knew? That sweet four-legged thing with the velvety antlers nibbling your expensive boxwoods down to a nub in the front yard actually is an unknowing mule for HGH.

Late in the week, I visited the Bass Pro Shop, the humongous outdoors store at Patriot Place, thinking I might be able to score a spritz or two of uncut deer antler velvet extract.

No way. The place is as clean as a fox’s whistle in a henhouse. They’re loaded with a bunch of other intriguing natural goodies, like bottles of Doe in Estrus ($6.99 per ounce), Dominant Buck Urine, and Bear Bomb (5 oz. of spray retailing for $10.99). Bass Pro has all that and enough firearms to stock the Concord-Lexington militia, but no deer antler velvet.

The most potent natural ingredient on the Bass Pro shelves looked like that Doe in Estrus, its package exclaiming that it’s a “Powerful Sexual Attractor.’’ Heyyy! It’s the Fonz of the forest.

So that’s where we are in February 2013. The cheaters are at least one step ahead of the testers who are paid to be hot on the trail of the velvet users/abusers. Where, I ask, was The Outdoor Network on this one? The deer-antler-velvet-extract-aerosol beat reporters should have picked up the scent on this one years ago. Just what did those OLN reporters know was going on in the woods and when did they know it?

Also last week came word via an alternative Miami newspaper implicating Yankee icon (apologies here to Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, et al) Alex Rodriguez in more PED use. In A-Rod’s case, at least, he is not accused of locking horns with Bambi’s boyfriend to better his OBP.

Rodriguez four years ago confessed to using PEDs from 2001-03, and last week through a PR firm he denied the worrisome Miami New Times report. The newspaper also said MLB stars Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, and Nelson Cruz bought PEDs from Biogenesis of America, LLC, a now-defunct anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables.

A fast-fading star who hit but .272 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs in 2012, the 37-year-old Rodriguez is still due an outrageous amount of money (five years/$114 million) on his Yankee deal. While MLB investigates the report’s veracity, Yankee lawyers are expected to ready a claim that the Bronx Bombers can void his contract if he has continued to feed from the PED candy counter.

The court of public opinion has already convicted all of these guys, especially on the heels of Lyin’ Lance Armstrong finally fessing up to many of his years of cheating, humiliating, suing, and bullying. We’re all fed up. But by and large we’ve grown tired of and inured to it all, no longer shocked or alarmed, barely caring what the pros pop or spray, smoke or eat or say. Deer antlers? Yeah, whatever.

We understand athletes will go all out to gain an edge, turn our money into their obscene fortunes, caring not whether they insult us, sully themselves, or permanently damage the sport they abused along the way.

They are the business. We are the pawns. Only the names of the cheats and the types of substances they use ever change.

Deer antler velvet extract. On Lewis’s final walk down the Super Bowl runway Sunday night, its mist and stench will cover him head to toe. Unlike the murder charge, maybe this time it sticks.

Kevin Paul Dupont’s ‘‘On Second Thought’’ appears on Page 2 of the Sunday Globe Sports section. He can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.
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