'Ephedra killed him'
Bechler's widow sues supplement maker for $600 millionPosted: Thursday July 17, 2003 2:35 PM
Updated: Thursday July 17, 2003 8:38 PM
BALTIMORE (AP) -- 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.
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 Wednesday by Kiley Bechler in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, also seeks a ban on the sale of ephedra-based products.
"It's a simple case of corporate and personal greed being placed ahead of consumer safety and the public welfare," said her attorney, David Meiselman.
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 drug stores, convenience stores and gyms as a weight-loss and energy miracle pill made from natural herbs, but the Food and Drug Administration has said the drug is blamed for nearly 120 deaths nationwide.
Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons, a former teammate of Bechler's, stopped using Xenadrine RFA-1 after the pitcher died.
"The lawsuit doesn't surprise me," Gibbons said Thursday. "Someone has to be held responsible for a young kid dying like that."
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