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County in New York Bans Ephedrine

Mar 6, 2003 |

A little more than two weeks after Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler died from heatstroke, a county in New York has banned the nutritional supplement that might have contributed to his death.

Suffolk County, New York, banned all sales within its borders of dietary supplements containing Ephedrine, the active ingredient in the herb ephedra, which increases metabolic rate, heat production, and the risk of heatstroke. The law was debated for months and ultimately passed by the Suffolk Legislature based on the death of a local 20-year-old man who ingested a supplement containing ephedra in 1996.

After an autopsy on Bechler, a Medical Examiner in south Florida, made a preliminary report that said the 23-year-old was taking Xenadrine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement that includes ephedra. The ME also said that Bechler was overweight and hypertensive, factors that can be exacerbated by ephedra, which increases heart rate and narrows the blood vessels, particularly during physical exercise. A forthcoming toxicology report could support that assessment.

The Food and Drug Administration said last week it would require warning labels on products including the supplement by the end of the year, perhaps as a precursor to ultimately banning ephedra, which currently can be legally purchased over the counter in the U.S.

The heads of both Major League Baseball and its union said they are awaiting the results of Bechler's toxicology report before considering a ban of ephedra from the Major Leagues where testing of players has just begun on the use of 17 anabolic androgenic steroids banned by the federal government. Last week, MLB added Ephedrine to its list of 10 "drugs of abuse'' banned along with steroids and Androstenedione in the minor leagues. Any change in the Major League policy must be collectively bargained.

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