Surrounded by memories of Steve Bechler, the Baltimore Orioles closed their clubhouse Friday and silently gathered around players’ union head Donald Fehr to hear his stark message: Stay away from ephedra.
Fehr personally backed up a one-page memo sent to all major leaguers this week by his office, warning them to “be extremely reluctant to use any products containing ephedra.”
The union cited action taken last week by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which cautioned that users of ephedra-based products face “potentially serious risks.”
Making his annual tour of spring training camps, Fehr’s visit to Fort Lauderdale Stadium took on special significance. Bechler, a 23-year-old Orioles pitching prospect, died of heatstroke on Feb. 17, and a Florida medical examiner linked the death to ephedra, an herbal supplement used by some athletes to lose weight.
“If that’s the cause of the guy’s death, then I think we need to stop using that, period,” Minnesota Twins star Torii Hunter said in Fort Myers.
Commissioner Bud Selig last week banned players with minor league contracts from using ephedra, but that did not cover players on 40-man major league rosters, who all have major league contracts.
Baseball’s labor contract prohibits only illegal drugs and certain steroids. Fehr had said the union would await the yet-to-be-released toxicology report from Bechler’s autopsy before deciding whether to re-evaluate its position, which is that players should be allowed to use any legal product.
Twins outfielder Dustan Mohr believes it shouldn’t be banned.
“I use it. Every once in a while before a day game and you’re not feeling so good, you get a little energy,” he said. “I think unless they ban it no one’s really going to stop using it.”