Column: Why Oprah may need a bigger couch


Column: Why Oprah may need a bigger couch

Believe whichever version of the Ray Lewis story you want. It hardly matters.

Sports Illustrated said Lewis was in touch with a company called Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS) just hours after tearing his triceps in October, loading up on deer-antler spray and a host of other mumbo-jumbo remedies - holographic stickers, negatively charged water, underwear exposed to radio waves - in a desperate bid to get back on the field.

Lewis told the magazine that he asked SWATS owner Mitch Ross for ``some more of the regular stuff'' on the night of the injury. But during an appearance on media day at the Super Bowl, he refused confirm that or discuss any other details in the SI report, insisting he recovered by dint of hard work alone.

``I've been in this business 17 years, and nobody has ever got up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test I've ever took in the NFL - there's never been a question of if I ever even thought about using anything,'' Lewis said. ``So to even entertain stupidity like that ...''

Both versions could be true, as it turns out, since Lewis' ferocious appetite for working out has been well documented and there's not a shred of scientific evidence that any of the products he reportedly received actually speed up muscle repair and growth - including the widely banned substance, IGF-1 (insulinlike growth factor-1), or at least the extract that SWATS boasted about using in its spray. And since Lewis passed all his drug tests, the only thing that really matters in this instance is intent.

Let's give Lewis the benefit of the doubt for the moment, and assume he believed not only that the supplements SWATS provided were free of any performance-enhancers banned by the league, but also that they worked. So what should we make of the fact that one of the NFL's longest-serving and much-respected veterans was taken in by a two-man operation selling crackpot cures and potions out of the back of a gym in Fultondale, Ala.?


For one thing, it tells you the line between legal and illegal PEDs is already blurry, that athletes in every sport will ingest just about anything they believe will work without tripping a positive test. Former linebacker Bill Romanowski used to tote around a briefcase full of pills at the Super Bowl - and open it on request - to show reporters how many different ones he swallowed daily to ward off injuries and keep him playing at his peak. Athletes in every sport mix their own cocktails - vitamins, minerals, proteins, amino acids - in hopes of doing the same. Given that the people who draw up the substance-abuse policies for the various leagues and sports contend they draw the line at stuff that actually enhances performance, the athletes' efforts seem like a pointless exercise.

Except that it's far from that. Players who can afford to train at high altitude or sleep in oxygen tents while rehabbing injuries - both allowed by nearly every sanctioning body - may actually benefit by increasing their count of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the same way that taking the banned substance erythropoietin (EPO) would. There are a dozen other similarly exotic and expensive schemes involving the use of ``approved'' techniques or supplements that get passed on by word of mouth, all of them employed in the hopes of providing even the slightest advantage.

While those distinctions still matter to the people in charge, fans increasingly yawn each time a big-name ballplayer is implicated, feigning shock for a moment before going back to voting with their feet and the remote control. Our games have never been more popular despite all the disclosures - Alex Rodriguez was ensnared in yet another doping investigation only Tuesday - because nearly everybody else in society uses performance-enhancers of one kind or another, at some time or another. And they're aware that ballplayers are the last people who can't bring their PEDs to the workplace.

Besides, there are already a wide range of therapies that have proven successful in treating injuries suffered by the rest of us that athletes can't touch. The more we learn what works and how, the more common sense argues that ballplayers should be able to avail themselves of the same treatments, at the very least those that safely accelerate the healing process. As the cheats have proven over and over, the science of performance-enhancing is always a step or two ahead of the tests, and that gap is only likely to widen going forward.

The cat-and-mouse game isn't solving anything. It's time to start thinking realistically about which PEDs could make athletes better AND safer playing the games, especially since we keep demanding better performances and the occasional public trial or teary-eyed confession - without much real concern for their health.

Either that, or Oprah is going to need a bigger couch.


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at) and follow him at

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A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks


A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks

For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have swept all three California teams on the road. The final win came on Friday in a 3-2 narrow defeat of the Anaheim Ducks. The game was full of shenanigans, some of which were cheeky and fun, but others were cruel and tragic.

Check out the game recap here.

Observations from the win

Just let them fight

We all remember what happened the last time these two teams played between Garnet Hathaway and Erik Gudbranson. It was no surprise to see those two lock horns in the second period, but the moment Gudbranson dropped his gloves, the refs were pulling the two apart preventing the fight.

The game devolved from there. In total, there was 66 PIM distributed in this game and I can't help but think most of it could have been avoided had the refs just let Hathaway and Gudbranson fight it out initially.

Why were they so quick to step in? I'm guessing that was the line in the sand drawn by the refs in an attempt by to keep control of the game and both players were told this is what would happen if they tried to fight. Rather than calm the game down, however, that seemed to make things worse.

Hathway and Gudbrandson ended up fighting in the third period anyway so what was the point of stopping them?

That sure sounds like they just needed to get that initial fight out of the way. That would have been better for both teams. Gudbranson's took an extra two minutes on the original fight attempt and the Caps scored on the resulting power play. Washington, meanwhile, sure seemed to get distracted by all the fisticuffs and scrums as the game went along, quickly losing control of a game it led 2-0.

Offside reviews stink and the NHL should get rid of them

Anaheim had a goal disallowed after a coach's challenge showed that Cam Fowler lifted up his back toe just before the puck crossed over the blue line. Once again, the game was slowed down so the refs could review a play and break down the video pixel by pixel to see if a player was just a hair offside. It saved the Caps a goal, but it was another example of the ridiculous standard linesmen now must stick to when judging if a play was offside or not.

The Ducks did not gain an advantage by the fact that Fowler's toe barely came off the ice right before the puck crossed. That's not the spirit in which the rule was intended.

Just please get rid of the offside review.


The Caps swept a four-game road trip for just the second time in franchise history and they did it without Nicklas Backstrom and with Alex Ovechkin scoring in only one of those four games. They could actually be even better than what we saw  Friday.

Turning point

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

Everything changed with one bad turnover.

Play of the game

Ovechkin is the team's most dangerous weapon on the power play. Getting the puck to him is priority one. Having said that, the Caps have a lot of weapons on the power play and they don't always utilize them. 

Washington's power play system is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is distributed, but rarely do they ever shoot from that position. They should because it would force defenses to account for it, but they don't and so you can understand why this shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov from the half-wall seemed to catch goalie Ryan Miller by complete surprise.

Stat of the game

The win completes a four-game sweep of the road trip. Does it seem like the Caps are really good on the road this season? That's because they are.

Quote of the game

Fan predictions

This is impressive. You nailed it and you got pretty specific too. There were only three misconducts, but still I'm very impressed.

A bit off on the score, but you got to see a Caps win.


There was plenty of this. A total of 66 PIM were issued in this game.

Well, it was nuts but it didn't get that nuts.

Just about everything that could happen to Radko Gudas did in this game...but he still didn't score.

I did, but barely. I am going to guess we lost a few people along the way.

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

The Capitals survived a physical affair in Anaheim on Friday to earn a narrow 3-2 win over the Ducks and complete the sweep of its four-game road trip. The bad blood from the previous matchup between these two teams boiled over as the game went on. There were two fights, multiple misconducts and plenty of scrums, but ultimately Washington was able to overcome all the extracurriculars to earn the win.

Here's how the Caps did it.

No angle

Travis Boyd opened up the scoring with a Houdini-like goal in that it came at a severe angle. How severe? The shot actually came slightly behind the goal line.

OK, how is that even possible?

Carl Hagelin made the pass behind the net and Boyd made the one-time shot from just past the goal line. When you look at the replay, the puck actually banked in off of goalie Ryan Miller.

The shot may not have defied the laws of physics as it originally appeared, but it was still a pretty darn good shot to put the Caps up 1-0.

Kuznetsov surprises Miller

When the Caps went to the power play, we all knew who was going to shoot, including Miller and that was the problem.

Washington's power play is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is typically distributed to John Carlson to setup Alex Ovechkin or down low to setup T.J. Oshie waiting in the slot. Typically Nicklas Backstrom plays the half-wall. He is one of the elite playmakers in the league but does not shoot nearly enough on the power play and as a result, no one seems to account for a half-wall shot as a possibility.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was playing the half-wall role on Friday. As he skated casually along the wall, Miller shrunk back into his net and planted against the post. That's not what a goalie does when he is expecting a shot. It looked like Miller was placing himself in anticipation of Kuznetsov passing the puck low behind the goal line. Instead, Kuznetsov called his own number and fired the puck on net which Miller was not expecting or ready for at all and the puck snuck through him for the goal.

A successful offside challenge

Sam Steele thought he had put Anaheim on the board in the second period, but for the first time all season, Todd Reirden challenged the goal as offside. The play was reviewed and showed that Cam Fowler had lifted his back toe off the ice just before Brendan Guhle brought the puck over the blue line. As ridiculous as the video review has made offsides, by the letter of the law the play was in fact offside and the goal was disallowed.

Ryan Getzlaf would score soon after for real this time so the review ultimately did not cost the Ducks, but the point wasn't so much that it cost Anaheim, but that it didn't cost Washington.

Had Reirden lost the challenge, not only would the goal stand as called, but the Caps would have been assessed a delay of game penalty. Instead, the goal was taken off the board and Washington maintained its two-goal lead...briefly.

A bad turnover

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

And everything changed with one bad turnover.

Less than a minute after Adam Henrique pulled the game even Miller went behind the net and left the puck for Guhle. Guhle took it and put it right to the stick of Vrana. His initial shot was stopped, but he picked up the rebound and stickhandled it past the netminder for the go-ahead goal

Anaheim had all of the momentum and had finally pulled even and then handed the lead right back to Washington.