Features

Player's death sparks change

National | Though there may be no agreement on how prevalent steroid use is in Major League Baseball, hardly anyone disputes the problem exists.

Issue: "Beginning of the end," March 29, 2003

Though there may be no agreement on how prevalent steroid use is in Major League Baseball, hardly anyone disputes the problem exists. Former major-leaguer Jose Canseco estimated three of four baseball players used steroids. New York Yankees pitcher David Wells in his autobiography claimed up to 40 percent of ballplayers used steroids.

Toxicology tests confirmed that significant amounts of an over-the-counter supplement containing the herb ephedra contributed to the heatstroke and death of Baltimore pitcher Steve Belcher. Still, ephedra is allowed by Major League Baseball, but that soon could change. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has already banned players with minor-league contracts from taking ephedra, and players union boss Donald Fehr has advised players not to take supplements containing the herb. The NFL and the NCAA already ban it, and the NBA could be close to banning ephedra.

When Belcher died in February from heatstroke, the outcry against ephedra increased. Broward County coroner Dr. Joshua Perper linked Bechler's death to a diet supplement containing the herb. After the player collapsed, a bottle of Xenadrine RFA-1 -a weight-loss product containing ephedra-was found in his locker.

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The herb speeds heart rate and constricts blood vessels, and Food and Drug Administration officials link it to about 100 deaths.

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