Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was thrust into a middle of a controversy sometime last year. The star linebacker suffered a torn triceps injury in one of his games and allegedly used deer antler velvet spray to help him heal and recover faster. Deer antler velvet is rich in IGF-1 (insulin growth factor 1), which is deemed as a sports-enhancing substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and Major League Baseball. Lewis denied the allegation and since he has never failed a drug test, he was able to play in the Super Bowl.
Deer Antler Velvet: Famous Supplement for Athletes
Due to its anabolic or growth stimulating properties and its ability to help heal wounds or repair muscles, deer antler velvet is a popular supplement among athletes. Vijay Singh has admitted to using a spray supplement. University of Alabama football players also allegedly used deer antler sprays leading up to the BCS National Title Game.
Soviet scientists in the 1980s tested the effects of deer antler velvet on the performance of elite Russian athletes, and the results were astonishing. Deer antler velvet helped increase the strength and muscle mass of Russian athletes, and speed their recovery time from exercise.
One reason deer antler spray has attracted the attention of professional athletes is because IGF-1 can't be detected in a urine test, according to CNBC.com. Only a blood test will reveal the presence of the hormone.
What is Deer Antler Velvet?
Deer antler velvet is made from the cartilaginous tissue of deer’s antlers before they calcify, and are referred to as velvet. The velvet is ground into powder and is sold either as pills or spray that users squirt under their tongues.
It has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine in a variety of illnesses – muscle repair, wound healing and faster recovery from injury are just a few of them.
It is purportedly rich in IGF-1. IGF-1 is a protein hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin. IGF-1 plays an important role in childhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults.
IGF-1 is produced by the liver upon stimulation by HGH (human growth hormone, see above), and stimulates and regulates cell growth and multiplication in bones, cartilage, and nerve cells, among other things. IGF-1 is the substance that is banned in Superbowl – NOT deer antler velvet.
Why Deer Antler Velvet is Safe
The co-owner of Sports with Alternatives to Steroids, Mitch Ross said the deer antler velvet spray containing IGF-1 is a naturally occurring equivalent to human growth hormone and it is naturally produced in several food products.
"It's in steak and in milk; there's nothing synthetic," Ross said.
"Natural IGF-1 is not banned (in the NFL).”
Deer antler velvet is regarded as a supplement which means it is not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Agency (FDA).