For some supplement manufacturers and researchers, this remarkable lack of data can make for an effective defense. "When you have random reports and no clinical tests, you don't know what the normal occurrence would be if people hadn't been taking supplements," says Richard Kreider, a professor and director of the Exercise and Sport Nutrition Lab at Baylor. "It's been reported that Americans take three billion doses of ephedra a year. If there was a huge problem, we should have seen more reports."
Kevin Riggins struggles to wrap his brain around this line of reasoning. "[The manufacturers] should have to prove that supplements are safe and effective," he says. "Consumers shouldn't have to prove they're ineffective and can kill you." A muscular 38-year-old with a goatee and tattoos, Kevin knew virtually nothing about supplements before Labor Day of last year. Today he is an expert—"not by choice," he is quick to add. He works 40 hours a week at the Bridgestone/Firestone tire plant up the road in Bloomington, Ill., and spends the balance of his time running the Sean Riggins Foundation for Substance Free Schools. Sean's small bedroom, still festooned with martial-arts trophies and posters of muscle cars, serves as the foundation's headquarters.
Wearing Sean's green number 51 home jersey, Kevin speaks to numerous high school kids around Illinois. He is in frequent contact with Durbin regarding his legislation to ban ephedra. "The foundation was the best way I could think of to honor Sean," says Kevin. "The basic message is that these supplements can be dangerous and that chemicals don't enhance sports performance."
Kevin has no delusions about the scope of the challenge. He knows how deeply supplements are embedded in today's sports culture. And he knows that thriving, multibillion-dollar businesses are not in the habit of rolling over. But his jaw tightens when he hears manufacturers defend their products on the grounds that reports of any injuries and deaths merely constitute anecdotal evidence. "We're talking about lads here, not anecdotes," he says. "I refuse to let people dismiss Sean as 'anecdotal evidence.' He was a great kid, and he should be finishing wrestling season right now."