Another respected professional athlete has openly acknowledged using deer antler products this week. Yesterday Sports Illustrated that golfer Vijay Singh admitted that he had been using deer antler extract several times a day since November. When Singh spoke to Sports Illustrated about his use of deer antler extract, he was enthusiastic about the potential positive health benefits of using the supplement. Though he has had a long and successful golf career, he has suffered physical set-backs in recent years. He has dealt with knee and back injuries that have affected his athletic abilities and, at times, forced him to withdraw from tournaments. He said, "I'm looking forward to some change in my body." (1) Unfortunately, his optimism was short-lived.
Singh did not realize that the deer antler extract active ingredient growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is prohibited under the PGA Tour's Anti-Doping Policy when he began taking it in November. He only later discovered that IGF-1 was on this list, saying, "While I have used deer antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned." (2) It is expected that the PGA Tour will investigate further into Singh's use of deer antler products, and he could be subject to penalties, fines, or even suspension. Today he withdrew from the Phoenix Open on the basis of his back injury, but there has been speculation that it is related to the controversy surrounding his open discussion of using deer antler extract.
Deer antler products are on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of prohibited supplements because of the active ingredient IGF-1, despite the fact that it is a natural non-steroid. It is a travesty that world-class athletes like Vijay Singh are subjected to harsh penalties when they seek relief from injury and turn to an all-natural product. We hope WADA and the PGA Tour will recognize the health benefits of this natural supplement and allow athletes to use it without penalty because of the physical risks they take daily in pursuing their careers.