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BALTIMORE - The widow of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler has sued the manufacturer and the distributor of a dietary supplement containing ephedra for $600 million.
The 23-year-old Bechler was taking the supplement to lose weight at the start of spring training when he collapsed Feb. 16 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. His body temperature rose to more than 108 degrees and he died the next day. A bottle of Xenadrine RFA-1 was found in Bechler's locker, the Associated Press reported.
Toxicology tests confirmed "significant amounts" of an over-the-counter supplement containing ephedra led to Bechler's heatstroke, along with other factors, the medical examiner said.
The lawsuit, filed by Kiley Bechler in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, also seeks a ban on the sale of ephedra-based products. The lawsuit names Manasquan, N.J.-based Cytodyne Technologies and its president, Robert Chinery, and Hicksville, N.Y.-based manufacturer Phoenix Laboratories.
Cytodyne issued a statement late Thursday that said, " ... the real truth is the allegation that his death was caused by ephedrine is wholly unsupported by the facts or scientific evidence.
"This novel lawsuit is the first time ephedrine has been blamed as the cause of a fatal heat stroke. It is equally as unfortunate, by improperly ascribing blame to a supplement and ignoring the real factors that contributed to the tragedy, such as improper medical screening by the Baltimore Orioles, efforts to prevent future or similar type tragedies will be impeded."
In the past, Cytodyne has criticized Meiselman for blaming the company, saying Bechler had a history of heat-related illnesses.
Ephedra products are marketed in convenience stores and drug stores, but many retail chains such as 7-Eleven Inc. and CVS have banned sales of the controversial product. Illinois became the first state in May to completely outlaw ephedra sales in retail stores.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos has called for a ban of ephedra, and the team strongly encourages its players to avoid the drug.
"You won't see it in any of the lockers," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Whether or not they're taking it, I don't know. We don't test for it. But I don't think there's any in our clubhouse."