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Vikings: Ephedra A Factor In Stringer's Death

Feb 25, 2003 | AP

Minnesota Vikings attorneys claim Korey Stringer's use of the controversial supplement ephedra can be linked to the heatstroke that killed him during training camp in 2001, according to documents filed last week.

The Vikings filed the papers in response to a motion by the lawyers of Stringer's widow, Kelci, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday. She has filed a $100 million wrongful death suit against the team.

Her attorneys have requested dismissal of a defense argument that Stringer took a supplement that contained ephedra and therefore contributed to his own death.

"Stringer's use of ephedra can be causally linked to the onset of heatstroke," the papers said.

The attorneys referred to testimony from Kelci Stringer in which she said her husband used a supplement called Ripped Fuel, which contains ephedra, before every football game. Right guard David Dixon, Stringer's training camp roommate, said in a signed affidavit that Stringer told him he used Ripped Fuel the morning of July 31, 2001, the day Stringer collapsed. He died early on the morning of Aug. 1.

Toxicology reports revealed no traces of ephedra in Stringer's system. But the Vikings contend that the toxicology reports did not test for ephedra.

"Plaintiffs have long suggested that no evidence of Stringer's ephedra use exists because blood tests after his death didn't reveal the presence of ephedra," Vikings lawyers said. "However, the truth as revealed in discovery in this case is that Stringer's blood was never actually tested for the presence of ephedra."

The Vikings' attorneys said that Stringer was only tested for hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic. Dr. Robert Middleberg, who works for a testing lab in Willow Grove, Penn., said his lab was not asked to test for anything else, including ephedra, although his lab had the capacity to conduct such a test.

They also cited the deposition of Dr. Dennis Gremel, the Blue Earth County medical examiner, who said the Mayo Clinic laboratory did not test for ephedra or ephedrine in Stringer's blood.

When Stringer played, the NFL discouraged the use of supplements that contained ephedra because of studies linking the drug to adverse side effects including heart attacks and damage to the nervous system. After Stringer's death, the league banned ephedra.

Vikings attorneys said they're exploring whether it's still possible to test Stringer's blood for ephedra.

Kelci Stringer's attorneys say the Vikings are initiating a smear campaign against Stringer.

"The Vikings long ago decided to smear Korey Stringer's name by suggesting that he contributed to his own death by taking supplements," Stringer attorney Paul DeMarco said Monday. "But every witness who has been asked if they have any evidence that Korey Stringer did anything to contribute to his own death said no. That includes the three team doctors.

"Because the Vikings refuse to own up to their own gross negligence, I expect them to look far and wide, in vain, for any evidence that Korey Stringer contributed to his own death."

In other documents, Vikings attorneys also said Stringer failed to arrive at training camp in proper condition.

Vikings attorney Jim O'Neal will ask judge Gary Larson to dismiss the case at a hearing on March 4. The trial is scheduled for June 9.

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