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Illinois Bans Ephedra Statewide

May 25, 2003 | AP Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the nation's first statewide ban on ephedra Sunday, flanked by the parents of a 16-year-old football player who died of a heart attack after taking the diet supplement.

"It's a good first step but it's not enough," Blagojevich said. He and other lawmakers urged other states and the federal government to adopt similar bans.

Ephedra, blamed for nearly 120 deaths, drew national attention after officials investigating the February heat stroke death of Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler linked it to a diet pill containing ephedrine, ephedra's active ingredient.

The herbal supplement is sometimes marketed as an athletic performance enhancer.

The drive for a ban in Illinois began last September with the death of 16-year-old Sean Riggins of Lincoln, whose father said he was taking the supplement to help make the first-string football team.

"We have to make sure that (young athletes) can no longer go to the store and buy ephedra as easily as they can chewing gum," Blagojevich said Sunday. The ban took effect immediately.

Earlier this month, nutritional supplement retailer General Nutrition Centers said it would stop selling products containing ephedra. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed a law last week banning the sale of all diet supplements to children under 18.

The American Heart Association has urged a ban on ephedra sales, and the NFL, NCAA and International Olympic Committee have banned its use by athletes. Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher stood with Blagojevich on Sunday to support the ban.

Riggins' parents, Debbie and Kevin Riggins, are working with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, in seeking a nationwide ban from the Food and Drug Administration.

"With the signing of this bill today, we are the benchmark," Kevin Riggins said.

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