Harvard athletes were recently warned not to take a supplement called Antler Velvet Max in an email from Brant D. Berkstresser, Harvard’s head athletic trainer and the assistant athletic director for sports medicine.
According to Berkstresser’s email, the supplement company has been sending emails to athletes advertising the product.
“If you do receive such an email it will look very credible but we recommend you do not take this or any similar product,” Berkstresser wrote.
But Joel Sauceda, co-founder and CEO of MaxLifeDirect.com—the exclusive distributor of Antler Velvet Max—claimed that the company has not been advertising the product to Harvard affiliates.
“Nobody within our company has solicited any students or faculty of Harvard with regards to Antler Velvet Max,” Sauceda wrote in an email.
Rick Lentini, CEO of Nutronics Labs, which manufactures Antler Velvet Max, asserts that the product is all-natural and void of any steroids.
Antler Velvet Max is a spray with deer antler velvet extract, which contains insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that helps contribute to human growth, according to the Nutronics Labs website.
Berkstresser wrote that the supplement has been credited with increasing testosterone above normal levels, resulting in failed drug tests for collegiate and professional athletes.
“Deer antler velvet increases your own testosterone naturally,” Lentini said. “It doesn’t increase testosterone levels like crazy. It does it naturally.”
Lentini also refuted the allegation that athletes have tested positive for performance enhancement drugs while using Antler Velvet Max.
“There is no way of testing positive for our product,” Lentini said. “It’s an all-natural substance from velvet deer antler.”
Lentini added that the supplement has received only positive testimonials for the past 15 years, but no studies have been conducted on its long-term effects.
“I just think that Harvard might be jumping the gun here, and it might be a wise move to do the due diligence because it is something that will benefit your student body and athletes,” Sauceda said.
Berkstresser wrote that he is unaware of any Harvard athletes who have taken this product.
“The problem with supplements is that they are not regulated by the federal government, so they do not have to prove they are safe, do what they claim, nor do the ingredients have to be listed on the product,” Berkstresser wrote in a follow-up email to The Crimson.
While Harvard’s Strength and Conditioning Director James L. Frazier knew of the supplement, he did not know any specifics about its composition or whether Harvard athletes have used it.
“Specifically for our student-athletes, we recommend that they only use supplements that are approved by our nutritionist or our NCAA and National Drug Free Sport Supplement Representative,” Berkstresser said. “We educate our student athletes to be very cautious with any supplement since they are not regulated.”