Deer antler velvet (also known as deer velvet, velvet deer antler, and velvet antler, among other names) is the soft, velvet-like skin that covers the growing antlers of certain deer, elk, moose, etc. It is considered to have growth-promoting properties that contribute to the rapid growth of the deer’s antler. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is one of several growth factors present in the deer’s antler velvet.
Deer antler velvet is not on the DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplement Ingredients list, but products containing IGF-1 are prohibited for use.
Deer velvet is touted to improve athletic performance, strength, and endurance, but there is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims. The safety surrounding deer velvet as a dietary supplement has not been well researched.
As a dietary supplement, deer antler velvet is often marketed as a “natural” source of various growth factors, including IGF-1. However, it is unclear what substances are retained once the velvet is removed from the antler, dried, and formulated as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules, sprays, and tinctures.
Without laboratory testing there is no way to know for certain whether dietary supplements that list deer antler velvet among their ingredients do or do not contain IGF-1, which is on the DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplement Ingredients list. For more information, read the OPSS article about IGF-1.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) does not explicitly prohibit deer antler velvet, but because some deer velvet products might contain the prohibited substance IGF-1, WADA advises that “athletes exercise extreme caution with this supplement because it could lead to a positive test. Athletes who use these types of products do so at their own risk.”
Updated 03 August 2022