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Selig Calls for Union Talks on Ephedra

Feb 21, 2003 | AP Baseball commissioner Bud Selig called Friday for new talks with the players' union to ban ephedra, the nutritional supplement that may have contributed to the death of Baltimore pitcher Steve Bechler.

Bechler died Monday, a day after collapsing at spring training with heatstroke. A Florida medical examiner said the death may have been linked to an ephedra-based diet pill, Xenadrine RFA-1.

While ephedra is banned by the NFL, the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee, use of the substance, which is available without prescription, is allowed in baseball.

During labor bargaining last summer, owners talked about banning ephedra, but they did not include a ban in their proposal after the union told management lawyers that it would not agree to it.

"Selig and the clubs have been consistent in advocating the ban of and testing for all illegal drugs as well as over-the-counter dietary and nutritional supplements that pose a health risk to players," the commissioner's office said in a statement Friday.

"In light of the apparent circumstances surrounding the tragic and untimely death of Baltimore Orioles (news) pitcher Steve Bechler, Major League Baseball and the clubs are prepared to meet with the Major League Baseball Players Association regarding the use or abuse of potentially dangerous dietary and nutritional supplements. Also, we will continue and accelerate our efforts to have Congress ban those substances."

Players have opposed banning any substances that are legal for others to take. The new drug agreement calls for players to be tested for drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, and for illegal anabolic steroids.

Union head Donald Fehr, speaking earlier in the day in Peoria, Ariz., said it was too early to draw any conclusions on ephedra.

"At some point down the road, I'm not personally familiar with how long it takes we'll have some scientific reports, which will tell us some things," Fehr said. "We may be able to draw conclusions from that. We may not. We'll just have to wait and see. Obviously, it's something you discuss internally. You take another look at things as circumstances warrant."

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