Deer antler effects are uncertain

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis would be in violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy — at least if the deer antler supplements he reportedly used to rehabilitate a torn triceps works as advertised.

Lewis took 10 deer antler pills a day and used deer antler spray under his tongue every two hours after he suffered the injury against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 4, reported on Tuesday. Lewis called the report “stupidity” at Super Bowl media day in New Orleans on Tuesday.

The deer velvet — taken from the antlers of deer before they are fully mature – in the spray and pills allegedly boost the production of human growth hormone in the body. But it’s not proven that a supplement could come close to matching the effects of regular HGH injections, according to Duffy MacKay, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

“I’m not aware of any substance like this formula that has been verified clinically to raise HGH levels,” MacKay told

According to the S.W.A.T.S. (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids) website, the spray purportedly used by Lewis “has been shown to contain” insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1). Like HGH, the use of IGF-1 has long been banned by sports leagues. The only verified way to get its muscle-building properties is from injections of the hormone.

“We know the effects when somebody injects IGF-1,” Anthony Butch, director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, told “We don’t know exactly how much IGF-1 is (absorbed by the body) when the material is ingested.”

It could be very little, or nothing at all.

But if the deer antler supplements act as advertised, an athlete could test positive. Not that Lewis has to worry. The current HGH test can’t detect a substance that boosts HGH levels, and only a newer HGH test will be able to detect higher-than-normal IGF-1 levels.

The NFL doesn’t use either form of the test, anyway.

The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to test for HGH when the current 10-year collective-bargaining agreement was ratified before the 2011 season, but the players union has blocked implementation of the test.

The league has suspended players without a positive test, a so-called non-analytical positive. Former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was suspended in 2007 after he admitted he used of HGH after he was linked to shipments of the substance.

The NFL sent letters to players before the 2011 season ordering them to end any relationship with S.W.AT. after several players were linked to the company. Major League Baseball warned its players about deer antler products since there was a possibility their use could lead to a positive test.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to examine sellers of deer antler supplements two years ago, but no formal action has yet been taken.