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Dietary product sports warning

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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Invercargill company Silberhorn has been caught up in a world doping controversy after athletes were this week warned off deer velvet products.

The Silberhorn product, made from deer antlers, contains the muscle growth hormone IGF-1, which is banned by all major sports.

The Silberhorn headquarters are in Dee St, Invercargill, and its co-director Ian Carline said yesterday he had received media phone calls about the product from around the world this week.

Customers were "panic buying" because they feared it would be taken off the market, he said.

Most of Silberhorn's customers were aged 50 and over and some athletes used it, he said.

The company website says Silberhorn is used to help boost the immune function and improve stamina.

Legendary New Zealand golfer Sir Bob Charles, who endorses Silberhorn, said this week he had been taking deer velvet for general health for the past two decades.

He admitted he had probably breached the sport's banned substances policy, not realising the product contained growth hormone.

Top American football player Ray Lewis and Fiji golfer Vijay Singh have also been caught up in the scandal involving deer velvet products reportedly sourced from New Zealand.

Lewis this week reportedly denied using deer velvet products.

Mr Carline said his Silberhorn company was getting a lot of publicity because it was a leading player in the deer velvet market, but Singh did not take Silberhorn because he used a spray.

He criticised Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Graeme Steel who warned athletes not to take deer velvet products.

Like Silberhorn, milk and meat also contained the muscle growth hormone IGF-1, Mr Carline said.

"He may as well tell people to stop drinking milk or eating meat. You aren't going to get elevated levels of growth factor with dietary supplements [such as Silberhorn]."

"It's only when you concentrate or synthesise these products that it becomes an issue," he said.

Mr Carline was "99 per cent confident" that athletes who took Silberhorn would not test positive to the muscle growth hormone, but he urged athletes to always declare that they had taken it.

Southland Stags rugby player Jason Rutledge confirmed he had taken Silberhorn until about 2011 but said until yesterday had no idea it contained a banned muscle growth hormone.

He had been drug tested while taking Silberhorn and had returned a negative test, he said.

He would not be taking it again if it contained a banned substance.

"I thought it was just natural stuff to help with cartilage and ligaments."

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Mr Steel said Drug Free Sport had a responsibility to warn athletes not to take deer velvet products because it was unknown how much IGF-1 - which occurs naturally in deer velvet - was in each product.

Southland Stags strength and conditioning coach Mark Beer said drug tests were conducted randomly on several players at trainings and games five or six times a season.

- The Southland Times

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