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Lincoln Family Pushes For Ban On Ephedra

Nov 30, 2002 | Bloomington Pantagraph Sean Riggins' death this fall left a hole in his parents' lives, which they are partly filling with a campaign to ban the herbal supplement that apparently killed him.

Kevin and Debbie Riggins of Lincoln are lobbying lawmakers, planning a nonprofit foundation and contemplating a civil lawsuit. They petitioned the Lincoln City Council this week to ban sales of ephedra supplements.

"We're plugging away, a day at a time," said Kevin Riggins of Lincoln, father of a 16-year-old boy who died Sept. 3 of heart failure. The Lincoln Community High School sophomore athlete took Yellow Jacket, an ephedra-caffeine compound that experts blame in his death.

Thanksgiving difficult

"Thanksgiving was rough," Kevin Riggins said, recalling how his only child used to sneak dill pickles from the kitchen while dinner was cooking. The Rigginses' extended family gathered for Thanksgiving, but it wasn't the same.

"There is a hole in this family that never can be filled," Kevin Riggins said. "Everything we're doing now, we're doing because we don't want this to ever happen again."

The Rigginses now fill much of their time with efforts to tighten regulations on ephedra. They are working with a lawyer to start the Sean Riggins Foundation, a nonprofit organization to educate young people about the dangers of both legal and illegal substances, Kevin Riggins said.

Kevin Riggins has met with State Sens. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, and Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, and state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, to press his case for tightening the Illinois Controlled Substances Act. The law regulates how ephedrine compounds are marketed. But it does not apply to supplements of ephedra, the Asian herb from which the stimulant ephedrine is derived.

"What we can do within the confines of the law, we need to get done," Kevin Riggins said.

The Rigginses have talked with a lawyer about filing a lawsuit, but they haven't filed yet, Kevin Riggins said.

Meanwhile, Sean's schoolmates still drop by the Riggins home. They come at all hours to sit and talk.

"They're always welcome; we really enjoy it," Kevin Riggins said. "They're helping us, and we're helping them get through it too."

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