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Man at center of Ray Lewis 'deer antler' controversy wants to 'clear the air'

Eric Adelson
Yahoo Sports

NEW ORLEANS – Mitch Ross, the man behind the controversial deer antler spray he allegedly provided to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, is going to New Orleans to "clear the air."

The owner of SWATS, or Sports With Alternatives To Steroids, will arrive at the Super Bowl host city on Friday, he told Yahoo! Sports. "I'm coming," he said Thursday morning by phone.

He intends to read an opening statement and then take any questions the media may have.

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Mitch Ross (above) first met Ray Lewis in 2008. (Yahoo! Sports)

Ross' relationship with Lewis, first reported by Yahoo! Sports' The PostGame.com in 2011, came to light again Tuesday when Sports Illustrated reported Ross sent deer antler spray and several other SWATS products to Lewis over the course of this season to assist with the linebacker's torn triceps injury. The "Ultimate Spray" is touted as including IGF-1, a growth hormone banned by the NFL. Although no known independent test has verified the spray actually contains IGF-1, Yahoo! Sports reported in 2011 that the NFL warned its players and coaches to cut ties with the company anyway.

"Despite the company's claims," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Yahoo! Sports in 2011, "it is not clear at all that the product actually contains IGF-1. The fact that the company is claiming that its product contains a banned substance is enough to preclude players from associating with the company."

Former Ravens assistant coach Hue Jackson introduced Ross to Lewis and several other Ravens in 2008. Jackson, now an assistant with the Bengals, apologized Wednesday in an interview with the Baltimore Sun for his involvement with SWATS.

"What happened is you think everybody is doing things for the right reason," Jackson told the Sun. "I knew there was nothing illegal based on information given by [Ross]. He always talked about things, saying they were already approved by the NFL. You live and you learn. I dealt with that two years ago. Anytime it comes up, my name is mentioned."

[Related: Ray Lewis agitated over link to PED during Super Bowl week]

In 2010, a special interest group lobbied the FDA to investigate SWATS. "We wrote to the FDA last year [about SWATS]," Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, told ThePostGame.com in 2011. "We got a response on Nov. 8. They said they would review it. I spoke at a public conference last Thursday morning. I said if the FDA had acted quicker, they might have saved [Hue Jackson] some embarrassment. We were disappointed the FDA didn't act quicker."

Other sports organizations followed the NFL's lead. The PGA Tour and Major League Baseball warned players about SWATS. The University of Alabama's compliance department even sent a letter to Ross asking him to cease all interaction with its athletes.

Yet this week, Sports Illustrated reported SWATS continued to provide products to Lewis, PGA Tour pro Vijay Singh, and Alabama football players. Singh has admitted to using the spray, but Lewis has not.

Lewis addressed the media Tuesday, saying the report was two years old and he didn't want to give Ross any press. Reached by phone that afternoon, Ross told Yahoo! Sports, "Ray Lewis is a hero for doing things the right way." It is Ross' contention that the IGF-1 in his product is not a banned substance because it occurs in nature. He compares it to the IGF-1 in milk and steak.

"[NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell needs to wake up and realize there's a company that can fix his problem and there's a company that can help him," Ross said Tuesday.

The Ultimate Spray is supposed to be taken sublingually, or under the tongue. It is not known if that is an effective means of delivering IGF-1, assuming the hormone is indeed in the product. It is also not known what performance-enhancing effects, if any, can result from a dose of the Ultimate Spray.

On Wednesday, Lewis called Ross a "coward." Asked about that Thursday, Ross said he would not speak publicly again until he arrives in New Orleans.

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