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Athletes Respond to Ephedra Warnings

Feb 28, 2003 |

Between practices, Jeff Byrne's varsity baseball team has been talking frequently about the recent loss of a minor league player and his ties to the popular dietary supplement, ephedra.

"I think it opened their eyes and I think that from what little I've heard them in the locker room, you know, they're definitely going to try and research what they put in their body," said Byrne, a coach for Caprock High School.

For now, their coach says only body building supplements like creatine are what these guys take, but Byrne still fears the constant ingestion of a drug for improvement might confuse the more serious athletes down the road. "If they're taking it and they see gains, they're going to want to keep taking it. That makes sense. I mean, if it's working why not keep using it," said Byrne.

That's why many coaches believe the use of ephedra is more rampant at the college level. "If they're not a starter and they think that'll help them be a starter I can see them doing it just on peer pressure," said Byrne.

Local pharmacists agree. After consulting with a nutritionist a few months ago, Southpark Pharmacy in Amarillo decided all ephedra supplements will be taken off their shelves. They still agree the drug should be available, only somewhere else with proper labels. "They need to be informed that an overdose can cause these problems," said pharmacist Steve McDaniel.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association bans athletes at both the high school and college level from taking ephedra supplements during their tournaments. On top of that, West Texas A&M athletes are drug tested at random. Their athletic department says it's highly unlikely any of their baseball players take the drug now for weight loss, but because it's so accessible, they can't promise some haven't taken the supplement in the past.

Athletic directors at WTAMU say none of their players have tested positive for the drug. They admit those that are most likely to take the drug are just everyday people looking to lose weight. That's why pharmacists are backing what the FDA is trying to do now. They say like any drug, ephedra is easy to abuse without proper warnings.

Thursday, minor league baseball players were banned from taking ephedra. It is still legal for major league players to use the supplement.

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