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Bechler's Widow Files $600M Lawsuit

Jul 17, 2003 | AP

The widow of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler is suing the makers of a dietary supplement linked to his spring-training death for $600 million.

Kiley Bechler is seeking damages for the loss of her husband and a ban on the sale of ephedra-based products.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, calls the product, Xenadrine RFA-1, a "poisonous cocktail" unsafe for human consumption. It names New Jersey-based Cytodyne Technologies, Phoenix Laboratories and Cytodyne's president, Robert Chinery as defendants.

Steve Bechler, 23, was taking the supplement to lose weight at the start of spring training when he collapsed Feb. 16 in Fort Lauderdale. He died the next day.

"It is indisputable that Xenadrine RFA-1 killed Steve," wrote Kiley Bechler's attorneys in the complaint.

A message left for a spokesman at Cytodyne's headquarters in Manasquan, N.J., was not immediately returned Thursday.

Toxicology tests confirmed "significant amounts" of an over-the-counter supplement containing ephedra led to Bechler's heatstroke, along with other factors, Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper said.

Ephedra products are marketed in drug stores, convenience stores and gyms as a weight-loss and energy miracle pill made from natural herbs, but the Food and Drug Administration has said the drug is blamed for nearly 120 deaths nationwide.

A bottle of Xenadrine RFA-1 was found in Bechler's locker after he collapsed.

"It's a simple case of corporate and personal greed being placed ahead of consumer safety and the public welfare," Meiselman said.

In the past, Cytodyne has criticized Meiselman for blaming the company, saying Bechler had a history of heat-related illnesses.

Xenadrine RFA-1 was a top-selling weight-loss supplement until the company took it off the market earlier this year amid mounting questions over the safety of its main ingredient, ephedra. In the complaint, Kiley Bechler's attorneys said Cytodyne's decision to stop selling ephedra-based products is "a startling concession as to the dangers inherent in Xenadrine RFA-1."

"Because defendants' belated concession is utterly incapable of resuscitating Steve Bechler, defendants must now be held accountable for the devastating financial loss that their actions have caused," the complaint said.

Ephedrine use is banned by the NCAA, the International Olympic Committee and the NFL, but not major league baseball.

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