Baseball’s Deer Antler Spray Ban Is as Silly as It Sounds

The latest controversy to strike Major League Baseball sounds like something out of an SNL skit. (Maybe one starring Andy Samberg as A-Rod and Justin Timberlake as Jacoby Ellsbury?) But everyone’s DEAD SERIOUS. Apparently, the new “potential replacement and dodge for the use of would-be steroids” is deer antler spray, and the MLB is telling players, “Cut it out!”

If you’re as confused as I was when I first read about this strange steroid alternative, here’s the deal. Someone in a lab figured out that the velvet from young deer antlers includes an insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, which mediates the level of human growth hormone in the body. As a result, the substance can build muscle and cut fat. The spray has been banned not only by the MLB, but also the World Anti-Doping Agency.

But there’s a weird hitch: The MLB doesn’t sound like they’re banning it because they’re opposed to their players using a substance that contains IGF-1.

Instead, they’re attributing the ban to the product being a “potentially contaminated nutritional supplement.” They say that methyltestosterone, a banned steroid, could show up on drug tests. But deer antler spray doesn’t list this steroid on its product. No one knows if it actually even “contaminates” the product.

Sounds like they’re playing a game of semantics here … and it’s also a power trippy thing, because they want to reserve the right to ban anything that seems like it could be “potentially contaminated” (aka a “secret” steroid). But that seems strange, because something as benign-seeming from a multivitamin to a fish oil capsule could be “potentially contaminated”!

What’s more, they can’t even prove that players are using the spray, because use can’t be detected from a urine test. Maaaaaaaybe a blood test, but the players’ association hasn’t agreed to those.

I’m sure the league just wants what’s best for the players, but telling them they can’t use deer antler spray and not being able to prove anyone is using it isn’t doing anyone any favors.

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