Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

There is plenty of blame to go around

There is plenty of blame to go around

Orioles’ pitcher Steve Bechler dies at 23

by Ray Mileur

Note from Marty Lurie: This is a quality article submitted by Ray, I appreciate the view point. Take a moment to read the text below.
A week ago, 23 year old, Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Steve Bechler had completed about 60% of the team’s running drills for the day, and looked winded, between sets, which “is not unusual” especially on a high-humidity day, according to manager Mike Hargrove. The temperature at midday was 81 degrees, and humidity was at 70 percent.

Just 24 hours later, after a spring training workout sent his temperature to 108 degrees, the right-handed pitching prospect died, at 10:10 a.m. Monday, at the North Ridge Medical Center, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Initial reports from officials, indicated the cause of death to be, multi-organ failure, preceded by heat stroke.

Dr. William Goldiner, the Orioles team physician said in a news conference, that the clinical syndrome of heat stroke, in which the body overheats, led to “cell death” and then organ failure. “Usually, one organ system and then another [goes], and often times the result is what happened,” Goldiner said. “That,

despite aggressive intervention.”

On Monday, a medical examiner said probably Bechler’s use of a supplement containing ephedrine, contributed to the cause of death. A bottle of that supplement was found in Bechler’s locker.

Ephedrine is a stimulant that quells fatigue, aids weight loss and boosts performance. Ephedra is a legal, over the counter medication. Known also as ma huang and sold under brand names, like Ripped Fuel,

Ripped Force and Xenadrine, it is a popular product among dieters and athletes looking for an energy boost to push them through workouts and competition.

Industry insiders acknowledge many supplement companies manufacture poor quality products and make irresponsible claims on labels and in advertising. But scientific studies, they say, prove ephedra can be a safe and effective tool for people who need to shed weight or need an energy boost. Stephen Kimmel, University of Pennsylvania professor of medicine and epidemiology, cites a recent Columbia-Harvard study that found

Ephedra can help people use weight without significant adverse effects. “When used as directed, ephedra poses no danger,” Kimmel says.

Broward County medical examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper told the Associated Press, that an autopsy would begin on Tuesday and that the results of the autopsy could take up to a few weeks.

Perper said the initial findings – combined with the fact that Bechler was participating in activities that increased his body temperature, something Xenadrine also elevates – converged and led to heatstroke.

Only toxicology tests will confirm that there was ephedrine in Bechler’s system, and those results won’t be available for at least two weeks.

Ephedrine has been banned by the NCAA, NFL and International Olympic Committee, but not by major league baseball. Ironically it is banned in minor league baseball and random drug testing is conducted.

Major League Baseball and Players Union Representative Donald Fehr refrained from commenting on this tragedy in respect to the family. Comments can be expected in the future as the facts are uncovered.

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said “We’re going to wait until we know more about what happened.”

Union Representative Donald Fehr added, “I’m not going to say anything until after the funeral and the burial, it would be inappropriate.”

Spurred by the death of Bechler, Major League Baseball and the Players Association will begin talks on the ban of ephedra in weeks to come and both sides will have to talk.

In an article published in the New York Daily News, Friday. “Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a long time critic of the supplement industry, sent a letter to Baseball commissioner, Bud Selig on Wednesday demanding why baseball has failed to act” (on the ephedra issue)

The article continues adding, “Selig does not have the authority to unilaterally stop players from using Ephedra, the weight-loss and energy-boosting supplement that have been linked to strokes, heart attacks and dozens of deaths. Baseball officials would have to get the union’s approval, and Gene Orza of the Players Association is reluctant to ban a product that is legal.”

As time passes, the blame game will begin.

Already fingers are pointing to;

Major League Baseball, in particular Commissioner Bud Selig for failing to act.

The Players Association, who consistently resists any type of restrictions on the use and testing for supplements, steroids and even illegal drugs.

Congress, while Congressman Waxman, is willing to quickly jump on the blame bandwagon; the wagon could stop at the desk of Congress.

Last year Federal regulators attempted to toughen laws on ephedra supplements, but efforts stalled in the face of massive lobbying campaign from the supplement industry. Ephedra manufacturers spent more than $4 million to beat back stricter regulations in Texas alone, in 1999-2000. According to US News & World Report, nutritional product companies have contributed more than $10.9 million to congressional and presidential candidates since 1995. If anything, the supplemental industry is becoming more powerful.

Sadly, over the next few weeks our Congressmen’s re-election campaign coffers will benefit from the increased lobbying efforts of this industry.

FDA, major supplement makers blame the FDA for not policing the industry, but the FDA had neither the authority nor the budget to catch wrongdoers: Just 21 full-time employees work in the dietary supplements program, and five of them are devoted to regulatory and compliance issues.

The Teams, while Major League Baseball has not banned the use of ephedra, individual teams have the authority to impose sanctions. Dr. Goldiner, the Orioles team physician said in a recent interview, that it is hard in dealing with non-banned substances and discouraging players from using them. “It is a terrible problem because what are we going to do then?” he said “Investigate every can in everybody’s locker on a routine basis? It gets to be a little [much]…And what happens to a player who says to you: “Doctor, I know what the problem is. I want to use it because it helps me. It is a legal substance, and it is not forbidden under Major League Baseball rules” Then what am I suppose to say?”

So for over the next couple of weeks you will hear, depending on who is holding the press conference, the fingers pointing to Major League Baseball, the Commissioner, the Players Union, the Teams, the FDA, manufacturers and our Congress.

What will be lost in all the debates, is the individual’s responsibility. In this country, individual responsibility is something of the past, it doesn’t really exist today. We already have a list of someone, some group or some government agency to blame instead of ourselves.

The factors that contributed to the 23-year-old pitcher’s death include;

– a history of borderline high blood pressure

– liver abnormalities detected two years ago but not diagnosed

– warm, humid weather during the workout

– he was on a diet and hadn’t eaten much food the previous two days

– apparent use of Xenadrine RFA-1 an over-the-counter drug that contains ephedrine

– an apparent overdose of Xenadrine, using 150% of the recommended dosage

– reporting to spring training at 249 pounds, 10 pounds above his listed weight

– reporting to spring training out of shape, was pulled from conditioning drills

– did not participate regularly in team workouts, during the offseason

It was all these factors combined, apparently that contributed to Steve’s death, not just the use of an over the counter, dietary supplement.

Cytodyne Technologies, which makes Xenadrine, said in a statement “Physicians warn that many adverse events related to ephedra are due to people taking more than the recommended dosages. Xenadrine has been the subject of numerous clinical trials on people, which have conclusively demonstrated that the product is safe and effective when used as directed.”

The use of supplements plays right into the microwave mentality of America. We want to get in shape now, we want to lose weight now, we want to bulk up now, everything now and easy. So if two pills is good, three must be better and four even better than three. I know I have been guilty of doing the same thing.

If there is a pill for it, give it to me.

New laws will be passed; more regulations will be added, to the mountain of regulations that already exist.

All in an effort to protect ourselves from ourselves. Good luck.

The bottom line is, Steve Bechler’s death was a great tragedy. There really is no one to blame.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of blame to go around, that’s what we do, it’s a lot easier than looking at ourselves.

The New York Daily News and the Associated Press contributed significantly to this article.


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