On January 30, 2013, Vijay Singh professional PGA Tour golfer was caught unaware and openly admitted to the personal use of deer antler spray which contained a banned substance at the time. A week later the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lifted the ban on deer antler spray, but with urgency, "Deer Antler Velvet Spray may contain IGF-1 and WADA recommends therefore that athletes be extremely vigilant with this supplement because it could lead to a positive test."  The consensus opinion of leading endocrinologists concerning any purported claims and benefits "is simply that there is far too little of the substance in even the purest forms of the spray to make any difference,"  and "there is no medically valid way to deliver IGF-1 orally or in a spray." 
There is some evidence that deer antler spray may work for improving performance and physique. However, it seems that an individual needs to take very high doses in order for these benefits to occur. In studies where the supplement was effective, injections of very concentrated extracts were used. Injections may be the most effective, and likely the only, way that deer antler works. This is because IGF-1 is mostly destroyed when it passes through the digestive system. Because of this, swallowing deer antler supplements would practically be useless.
In another randomized, double blind, placebo controlled experiment (Broeder, 2004), 38 males, all of whom were experienced weightlifters, entered a 10 week strength training program. Those who took deer antler velvet experienced an increase in peak torque and average power relative to the placebo group. They also experienced unexpected improvements in aerobic performance.
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Yes, the Soviets had even been involved in extensive research to ascertain the performance benefits of deer antler velvet. But they've been using it for awhile. In their country it was known in Russian folk use to be a warming and vitalizing food several hundred years ago, but with the advent of modern history, they began research nearly 90 years ago.
The growing market has bred plenty of competition. A company called Now Foods is now making deer antler velvet lozenges. GNC just started selling deer antler velvet capsules called New Vigor from a company called Vitalast and Amazon.com has more than 30 products will deer antler velvet in it including the raw powder from New Zealand, where the most coveted deer velvet is harvested.
An ethanolic extract has been noted to, following oral ingestion of 100mg/kg, suppress nitric oxide secretion from peritoneal macrophages while stimulating phagocytic activity secondary to calcium mobilization, and has been noted to increase macrophage cell count in a concentration dependent manner up to 171.5% at 150mcg/mL with a water extract (and 132.4% for splenocytes). This immunostimulation appears to be related to phosphatidylcholine molecules with saturated fatty acid acyl chains and is thought to underlie an anti-infective effect in mice infected with Staphylococcus aureus when Velvet Antler is ingested at 500mg/kg.