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Deer Antler Velvet Sales On The Rise, Does It Really Work?

The latest and greatest performance enhancer, if you've been living under a rock, is deer antler velvet. On the surface, it seems like it could make sense. The coating on the antlers of young male deer that contribute to the growth of that part of their body could help athletes. First, the NFL prohibited Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson from endorsing it. Now, according to SI.com, Major League Baseball is warning players about using it.

Konrad Wothe | LOOK | Getty Images

Deer antler velvet is seen as a possible steroid alternative because it includes something call insulin-like growth factor or IGF-1, which is said to regulate human growth hormone in the body. It's also seen as somewhat detection free since it can only be discovered through a blood test.

Dr. Ricardo Lentini, who has been selling deer antler velvet for nearly 15 years, says the reports have helped sales at his company, Neutronics Labs, which sells a spray in three concentrations with prices that range from $19.99 to $119.99 for a month supply.

But does deer antler velvet, whose roots can be traced back to traditional chinese medicine, actually work as a performance enhancer?

The latest and greatest performance enhancer, if you've been living under a rock, is deer antler velvet. On the surface, it seems like it could make sense. The coating on the antlers of young male deer that contribute to the growth of that part of their body could help athletes. First, the NFL prohibited Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson from endorsing it. Now, according to SI.com, Major League Baseball is warning players about using it.



Studies are not only sparse, but also not definitive.

In what might be the most important study done in the United States, a group of scientists took 32 male weight lifters and gave half of them New Zealand Deer Antler Velvet and half of them a placebo for 10 weeks. While the placebo group didn't show any difference in bench or squat tests, those given deer antler velvet saw an increase of 4 percent on the bench press and 10.1 percent on the squat test as compared to the placebo group. The scientists also reported that there was a "significant improvement in aerobic capacity" with the group that was taking deer antler velvet.

While Lentini admits sales have picked up, he says he's been hurt by the perception in the recent baseball letter, which told players that deer antler velvet could be contaminated with methyltestosterone, a banned steroid. The connection is based on the fact that David Vobora tested positive for the steroid after using antler spray. He won a $5.4 million judgment against the company that made the spray.

"Our deer antler velvet is pure and doesn't have steroids in it," Lentini said of his product, which, like many nutritional supplements, is not recognized by FDA.

The growing market has bred plenty of competition. A company called Now Foods is now making deer antler velvet lozenges. GNC just started selling deer antler velvet capsules called New Vigor from a company called Vitalast and Amazon.com has more than 30 products will deer antler velvet in it including the raw powder from New Zealand, where the most coveted deer velvet is harvested.

Lentini says like any product category, all brands aren't the same. He insists that he has the harvest rights to the best deer antler velvet and says that those who use his product will feel a difference in as soon as two days.

He also says that he's not going to wait for the next big study to come out. His next move? Funding his own clinical study to prove skeptics wrong.

Said Lentini: "I have thousands of customers. It can't be a placebo effect."

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com