By Tony Chaston
As the Oceania sports market is blown apart with the Australian Crime Commission’s report into widespread drug and doping practices in that country, last weeks doping story involving velvet pales into insignificance.
However I believe the NZ velvet industry and its product has been unfairly maligned by many misguided news reports and by the press release from Drug Free Sport NZ.
I need to declare an interest in this issue having had a deer industry past both as a deer farmer, velvet grower and consumer and was for a time on the NZDFA council.
Since selling my farm I have taken up long distance running and have participated in marathons and multisport events and during that time took velvet capsules to aid in replacing minerals and vitamins due to vigorous exercise and as a preventative for joint and ligament damage.
I support the elimination of doping and drug scandals in sport, but targeting this food product, grown annually from our farmed deer herd is misguided.
The issue that resulted in Drug Free Sport NZ warning athletes against velvet use, was created when golfer Vijay Singh admitted to taking an IGF-1 spray heavily refined from the base product velvet. WADA in their press release spelt out that the issue was with a spray refined from velvet only and no mention was made of discouraging velvet use.
The quick disparaging stigma given to velvet and the main form of dried antler in a capsule that resulted is unfair as the product used is light years away from its food base.
This is like encouraging all milk users not to drink A1 milk because it contains BCM7, a powerful opioid, presumably also a banned substance.
Nobody within the deer industry has ever denied that velvet does contain IGF-1 but at trace levels lower than other common foods, including fresh milk and steak, but no warning has been made to athletes on these products.
Over the years the NZ velvet industry has worked hard to educate Western cultures about the benefits of this historically Asian food, ridding it of it’s aphrodisiac tag to marketing a product that gives nutritional benefits and wellness to all who take it. This negative uniformed publicity damages the industry's reputation, the scientists that did the research and the world famous sports stars that endorsed it use.
The industry invested heavily in studies to back up these claims and in 2007 Deer Industry NZ published leading velvet research scientists findings, backing claims that velvet was safe to take as a supplement by sports people.
The success of this is declared in their statement “a number of top athletes have taken velvet for a number of years without returning positive blood tests” including I add an Olympic gold medalist.
The non-believers forget that velvet is a unique food product, grown annually on the finest of NZ’s pastures, harvested under strict animal welfare conditions and sold under similar hygiene restrictions all our other food products are under. Lumping velvet in with a myriad of other supplements is unfair as this ignores the integrity of the industry and the structures that are in place to keep velvet as a safe and healthy food.
I for one will continue to use it until robust science proves that velvet capsules are bad for my health or that banned substances in it’s make up give me an unfair advantage in sport.