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'How Many More People Have To Die' From Using Ephedra?

Mar 2, 2003 | The Jackson Sun

Sylvia Coile-Lemay read about Steve Bechler's death and screamed inside.

Once again, ephedra, a natural herb, struck down an unsuspecting user. But this time it was 23-year-old Bechler, an overweight Baltimore Orioles pitcher. And the ensuing national exposure might produce long-overdue change.

"How many more people have to die?" Sylvia said last week, her tense voice reduced to a whisper. "Somehow we've got to get this off the market so it doesn't hurt anybody else."

Five years ago, Sylvia's husband, Jim Coile, dropped dead of heart failure in his mother's house. He was 42 and a picture of health at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds.

Sylvia's call to my phone was perhaps the most shocking moment of my life. Jim was a groomsman in our wedding. He and Sylvia graduated from Freed-Hardeman, and she taught at Jackson Christian School before they moved to Nashville.

Jim drove a delivery truck for Coca-Cola. Aiming to get a bit more energy, he went to GNC and bought a bottle of Ripped Fuel. Billed as all natural, it seemed harmless enough. But the tablets contained ephedra, and doctors said that led to Jim's sudden irregular heart beat and death. For less than $5 a bottle, my friend lost his life, leaving behind a wife and two young sons.

Doctors link hundreds of stroke victims, deaths and other ailments to the use of products containing ephedra. But it presently can't be regulated by the FDA because it's a natural herb.

Anyone can still go to the local grocery and buy a bottle of tablets containing ephedra, thinking it will help them lose weight, bulk up or have more energy. They have no idea the over-the-counter product could kill them.

"That's the part that makes me so angry," Sylvia said. "It's still out on the open market. Teens buy it like crazy, like a multi-vitamin. And it's nothing more than legalized speed."

"Jim thought he was taking something to help his life," Sylvia said. "It didn't just hurt him; it killed him. And it destroyed us."

Don't let it destroy you. Be aware of the risks and avoid gambling with ephedra.

Dan Morris is The Jackson Sun's sports editor. He can be reached at (731) 425-9636 or (800) 269-0488 or e-mail at

Ephedra products Some products containing ephedra extracts:

Metabolife, Ripped Fuel, Diet Fuel, Stacker 3, NaturalTRIM, Hydroxycu, tXenadrine RFA-1, Metab-O-Lite, Metabolift, Up Your Gas, Truckers Luv It, Yellow Jackets.

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