Major League Baseball recently sent out a letter concerning a deer-related issue that it considers a threat to our national pastime.
No, not the continued employment of Joe Buck, the FOX broadcaster and Timberlake bud.
Rather, as SI's Tom Verducci reports, it's the players' potential use of "deer antler spray" that MLB is warning players about taking. The product is an alternative to steroids and is virtually undetectable by a drug test.
Deer antlers? Yes, chemists have figured out the velvet from immature deer antlers includes insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, a precursor to producing human growth hormone. 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."
If you visit Nutronics.com, you'll find that a starter's shipment of antler spray will run you about $19.99 ($17.99 with auto-pay!) and that it's currently being endorsed by some NFL players like Heath Evans (more on that here) and bodybuilder/Hulk Lou Ferrigno (naturally).
So it's not like this spray is some new crazy and inventive way to get buff.
As Verducci writes, the league's letter is more concerned with another side benefit of the product than actual performance enhancement. While IGF-1 is on MLB's (and the NFL's) list of banned substances, it is undetectable by the urine tests that are administered to today's players.
MLB has been told, however, that the deer antler spray can produce positive tests for methyl testosterone, another banned substance.
So, yeah, if players are using deer antler spray because they think it's undetectable, they might want to knock it off.
The whole situation is actually really fascinating if you think about it. The league could have clammed up on the info that it received from drug-testing agencies and allowed the cheaters who thought they were getting away scot-free to eventually be caught via test.
But considering that baseball's image would be hurt with more scandal, they're coming out and issuing a preemptive strike with a warning they'd like their employees to hold near and, uh, deer.
And it's not like they're bluffing, either: St. Louis Rams linebacker David Vobora tested positive for methyl testosterone after using antler spray and was suspended. He later won a $5.4 million judgment against a supplement company.
The message from that lawsuit seems clear: Baseball users beware.
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