Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 1/30/13
It is a surprising coincidence that allegations of performance-enhancing drug use against two of the biggest names in American sports surfaced within hours of each other on Tuesday. That timing, however, is where the similarities between Ray Lewis and Alex Rodriguez end. For Lewis, the report that he used deer antler velvet spray — a substance banned by the NFL — to help him recover from a torn triceps earlier this season seems to be just a speed bump for the Ray Lewis Retirement Tour, lost amid a sea of elaborate dances and excessive emotion. Leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl, the overriding storyline will be that of one of the NFL’s all-time greats looking to win it all in his final game, with his questionable means of getting there being shoved to the back burner. A-Rod, however, has not been viewed nearly as favorably by the sports world of late, and these latest charges of steroid use could be the final setback in an unprecedented fall from glory. Over the last six months, Rodriguez has been benched after a dismal playoff showing, undergone hip surgery that will shelf him for at least half of next season and been connected to a new PED scandal after a scathing report released Tuesday by the Miami New Times. Throw in the fact that his 10-year, $275 million contract is widely regarded as one of the worst in baseball, coupled with a potential 50-game suspension looming if these allegations are found to be true, and Rodriguez’s downward spiral has been swifter than any current sports figure this side of Lance Armstrong. The reasons for this dichotomy between the two stars are numerous. Chief among those, however, is that the sentiment surrounding PEDs in the two sports is drastically different. While the NFL has ramped up its drug-enforcement policy, most substance-abuse-related fines and suspensions come after positive tests for recreational drugs such as marijuana or alcohol-related arrests. The closest thing to a PED scandal football has experienced was the upswing of failed Adderall tests earlier this year. Simply put, PED use is almost accepted at the highest levels of football, and has been for years. Baseball is another story, as steroids and other performance enhancers have sullied the reputations of countless stars and tarnished the records the major leagues hold in such high regard. Every hitter that showed legitimate power over the last 20 years is now under the microscope, so much so that zero players were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year for only the third time since 1965. With one drug confession already under his belt, Rodriguez will not be given the benefit of the doubt by fans this time. Though he was a four-time All-Star prior to 2001, when he claims his steroid use began, and while these latest allegations may prove to be nothing but fiction, this is how A-Rod — one of the greatest hitters of his generation — will be remembered. Performance enhancers will define Alex Rodriguez’s career. Drug use on Ray Lewis’ part, whether confirmed or not, will never be more than a footnote in the linebacker’s legacy.
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