Mitch Ross, the man behind the details in the now infamous Sports Illustrated report that linked Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to the use of a banned substance called deer antler spray, is now issuing an apology that is too little too late.
The report was done by David Epstein and George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated and in it, Ross' company, S.W.A.T.S, linked Lewis as well as several other athletes to the potential use of the banned substance.
NFL Network's Albert Breer tweeted Ross' apology:
Mitch Ross is apologizing to athletes the SI story hurt. Calls Ray Lewis and Hue Jackson heroes.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 1, 2013
Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun and FOX Sports then tweeted another quote from Ross, which claims he never saw Lewis actually take the deer antler spray:
Mitch ross says 'he never saw ray lewis put it in his mouth' the deer antler spray— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) February 1, 2013
Ross' apology is in no way an admission of giving false details in this SI report, so clearly the claims against Lewis and others will stand.
The news about Lewis' alleged use of the deer antler spray couldn't have come at a worse time for the Hall of Fame linebacker and the NFL itself. In a two-week span before the Super Bowl, when news is thin and excitement for the big game is building, this story quickly became all people could talk about.
It was negative press for the league and the positive story that was Lewis' imminent retirement at the conclusion of this season was easily overshadowed. In what seemed like a matter of moments, Lewis went from being celebrated by most to being vilified by many because of this alleged connection.
Lewis, of course, denied the validity of the report on multiple occasions.
At this point in the history of sports, sometimes all it takes is an accusation to render an athlete guilty in the court of public opinion—especially in regards to the use of banned substances. It might not seem fair, but fans have been burnt by athletes lying before, so it's logical to be a bit more careful in accepting these denials at face value.
Some of the other people implicated in the SI report were members of the Alabama Crimson Tide's 2011-12 National Championship team, amongst several others.
While Ross' remorse is rare to see from people in his position, it has come far too late to matter. The beans have already been spilled and those implicated by Ross have been shed in a negative light, something that will likely never change.
Bottom line: the damage has been done and it can't be erased by anyone—not even Ross.
People will no doubt go on to question the credibility of Ross and the report—much like Lewis himself did—but far less credible people have accused top athletes of using banned substances and have proven to be right (see: Jose Canseco).
The athletes mentioned in this story will forever be marred by the details of this SI report and no apology can fix that.