February 22, 2003
NEW YORK -- Commissioner Bud Selig called Friday for new talks with the 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 in Fort Lauderdale with heatstroke. A 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.
Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Government Reform, sent letters to the heads of the NBA, NHL and baseball union head Donald Fehr asking why they have not acted to ban ephedra. Waxman sent a similar letter to Selig on Thursday.
"I would like to know why this serious safety issue has not been addressed," Waxman wrote.
One of Bechler's teammates, pitching prospect Matt Riley, said he threw away pills containing ephedrine as paramedics treated the pitcher before his death.
Riley said he saw the bottle of Xenadrine on a table as Bechler was being treated in the training room and threw it away because he was upset about his friend's condition. The bottle was later retrieved and taken to the medical examiner.
"I told them I threw it away because I was just upset and I wasn't thinking when I tossed it," Riley told the Miami Herald. "I didn't think of the consequences at the time, I just hated seeing that bottle there."
ATHLETICS: Outfielder Ron Gant signed a minor-league contract.
BRAVES: Pitcher Jason Marquis, expected to be the fifth starter, agreed to a one-year contract.
BREWERS: RHP Nick Neugebauer will have surgery on his right shoulder and may miss the season.
DODGERS: Kevin Brown threw from a mound for the first time as he tries to come back from back and elbow surgery.
PADRES: Three days after his most recent chemotherapy treatment for a brain tumor, pitcher Rob Ramsay threw 40 pitches during batting practice. ... Closer Trevor Hoffman returned to San Diego for an MRI on his ailing right shoulder.
PIRATES: First baseman Randall Simon took a stress test to determine what caused an abnormal reading on an electrocardiogram.
WHITE SOX: Outfielder Carlos Lee has visa problems and likely will miss today's first workout.