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Orioles Pitcher's Death Tentatively Linked to Use of Ephedra

The Baltimore Sun reports that Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper has tentatively linked the death of Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler to use of an over-the-counter weight loss product containing ephedra. Ephedra contains the stimulant ephedrine, a substance banned by the International Olympic Committee, the National Football League, and other sports organizing bodies. The article says:

Major League Baseball did attempt to include ephedra and ephedrine on a list of banned substances during the labor negotiations that led to the sport's new steroid-testing policy, but met with resistance from the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The last time baseball's drug policy came under public scrutiny was when Mark McGuire broke Roger Maris' single season home run record. At that point, the issue was McGuire's use of androstenedione, a performance-enhancing drug that he has subsequently denounced. "Andro" is a product that can lower the level of HDL in the blood and increase the risk of heart attack, if taken in large amounts.

Of course, the controversy over McGuire's use of andro was muted by the fact that he was chasing a record, and also that the risks of using it were not understood by the public. Now that an American professional athlete has died in a manner that indicates that a stimulant may have contributed significantly, sports drug policies will come under increased scruitiny. It's about time.


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