Baseball sent a warning to its major and minor league players last week that may sound odd, if not comical, but is a sign of these drug-testing times: stop ingesting deer antler spray.
Until the warning went out, baseball players, taking their cues from the body-building and NFL cultures, felt safe using a deer antler spray as an alternative to steroids with almost no risk of flunking a drug test.
Deer antlers? Yes, chemists have figured out that the velvet from immature deer antlers includes insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, which mediates the level of human growth hormone in the body, and is also banned by MLB and the World Anti-Doping Agency, among others, for its muscle-building and fat-cutting effects.
The antlers are harvested from young deer, ground up and packaged into spray form. The substance is sprayed under the tongue. One manufacturer touts among its benefits “anabolic or growth stimulation,” “athletic performance” and “muscular strength and endurance.”
IGF-1, like HGH, cannot be detected in the urine tests used by baseball. Under the right circumstances, it could be detected in a blood test, but the players association has not agreed to blood testing.