A Bitter Pill
Why the federal government needs to come to terms with ephedra
The over-the-counter capsule that the Broward County, Fla.,
medical examiner implicates in the Feb. 17 death of Orioles
pitcher Steve Bechler is a very busy little drug, and, yes, it's
a drug and not, as many manufacturers insist, a dietary
supplement. One of the ingredients in Xenadrine RFA1 is the herb
ephedra, which contains the chemical ingredient ephedrine, which
the FDA classifies as a drug. Ephedra speeds up the metabolism,
which theoretically can help you slim down, something Bechler,
who reported to spring training 10 pounds over his normal playing
weight--and was cited for being out of shape by Baltimore manager
Mike Hargrove--was desperately trying to do. But ephedra
constricts the blood vessels, raising blood pressure and
inhibiting the body's ability to cool itself. And ephedra fires
you with such energy that you may not know when to stop
exercising. Bechler, 23, only quit running sprints when he
collapsed of heatstroke.
Bechler's widow, Kiley, had told him she didn't want him taking
ephedra, which the IOC, NCAA and NFL ban. But Bechler didn't
listen, and he joins a grim roll of nearly 90 deaths--and about
1,500 reported cases of what the FDA calls "adverse effects,"
including seizures, strokes and heart attacks--that have been
linked to the substance. Among the incidents: Rosanna Porras, a
15-year-old soccer player at Fillmore (Calif.) High, who died in
practice in 1998; Northwestern safety Rashidi Wheeler, who
suffered a fatal collapse during a workout in 2001; and Sean
Riggins, 16, a football player at Lincoln (Ill.) Community High,
who in September 2002 fell ill and developed breathing problems
and died suddenly. In the first two cases the victim had a
medical condition that some believe was exacerbated by ephedra;
in Riggins's case, a coroner ruled that ephedra had caused heart
failure. Though ephedra was not found in the bloodstream of
Vikings tackle Korey Stringer after his death in July 2001,
bottles of the substance were in his locker.
So why do ephedra products sit on neighborhood shelves, bearing
names like Xtreme Ultra Orange and Ripped Fuel? The FDA requires
that a manufacturer prove that a drug is safe before it can be
brought to market. But in 1994 Senator Orrin Hatch (R., Utah),
whose state is home to about one fifth of the nation's supplement
manufacturers, pushed through the Dietary Supplement Health and
Education Act (DSHEA), which decrees that for products derived
from herbs and other "natural" sources, the FDA has the burden of
proving the product unsafe. Ephedra, as an herb, is covered by
DSHEA, even though ephedrine is held to the FDA's more stringent
drug standard when it is extracted and sold as medicine. Since
then the supplement industry has boomed, more than doubling its
annual revenue to $18 billion.
March 3, 2003
In response to Bechler's death, Rep. John Sweeney (R., N.Y.)
wants to suspend all sales of ephedra and plans to introduce
legislation to reclassify ephedra as a drug rather than a
"dietary supplement." Last October, Sen. Richard Durbin (D.,
Ill.) led a congressional hearing that revealed that the defense
department had removed ephedra products from all stores on
military bases after it was found that ephedra was linked to the
deaths of 33 servicemen since 1997.
Last week Hatch said, "If the FDA finds an ephedra product to be
unsafe, it has the authority to act immediately." It's not that
easy, though. Former FDA head David Kessler has written that
"Congress has put the FDA in the position of being able to act
only after the fact and after substantial harm has already
occurred." Indeed, DSHEA emasculated the FDA by requiring it to
investigate and rule on a broad and constantly changing range of
ephedra products one by one.
Two hours before her husband's death Kiley Bechler left his
hospital room to address the Orioles about the dangers of
ephedra. "She let everyone know it's just not worth it," says
pitcher Matt Riley, 23. "That he's lying on a bed and dying,
leaving behind a wife and an unborn child." But if her own
husband didn't listen to her, strangers can't be counted on to do
so. Which is all the more reason for Congress to overhaul the
law, fast. --Alexander Wolff
A Pointed Absence
Because of a gossip-page blurb, Sandy Koufax stays clear of
He had become the most anticipated visitor to spring training, a
slim, silver-haired philosopher bearing tips to tame a young
pitcher's curveball or rouse a veteran's confidence. But for one
of the few times in the past half century, Sandy Koufax, 67, will
not make an appearance at Dodgertown. The legendary lefty has cut
ties to the team with which he spent his Hall of Fame career, all
because of a bit of tabloid innuendo that was ignored by almost
everyone but the famously private Koufax himself.
Koufax's disaffection stems from a Dec. 19 blurb in the New York
Post that asked, "Which Hall of Fame hero cooperated with a
best-selling biography only because the author promised to keep
it a secret that he is gay?" The reference was to Jane Leavy's
2002 biography Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, and since the Post
is owned by News Corp., which also owns the Dodgers (as well as
Lefty publisher HarperCollins), Koufax called team vice president
Derrick Hall a few days after the item ran and calmly told him
that he was severing ties. "Just like Sandy, so under control,"
Last week, when reporters noticed that Koufax was absent from
camp, Hall went public with the news, saying that Koufax said he
"felt foolish" working with an entity connected to News Corp.
Though Koufax was seen at the Port St. Lucie, Fla., training
complex of the Mets--who are owned by his high school friend Fred
Wilpon--he had, at press time, eluded all media. Even Leavy, who
condemns the Post item as "fallacious," had been unable to reach
him. Koufax's silent protest, she says, "is an act of principle
consistent with his person."
Last Saturday the Post apologized, saying the item "sparked a
series of unfortunate consequences for which we are very sorry."
Yet those who know Koufax say he is unlikely to reconnect with
the Dodgers until News Corp. sells the team, as it is trying to
do. "Sandy's hurt, and I don't blame him," says Dodgers managing
partner Bob Daly, "but I hope he'll come to realize this was just
a mistake by a guy who writes a column for a paper." In the
meantime Dodgertown isn't the same. "Sandy knows a lot about
pitching, about as much as anyone around," says Dodgers ace Kevin
Brown, who credits Koufax with fixing his mechanics in the late
1980s. "I can understand his position, but he'll be missed. He
really will." --Kelley King
8 Games that Tony Gwynn coached San Diego State's baseball team
before being ejected.
2,440 Games Gwynn played during a 20-year big league career in
which he was ejected only once.
0 Landlocked countries that have won the 152-year-old America's
Cup competition, a streak that will end should Switzerland's
entry, Alinghi, extend its 3-0 lead in the best-of-nine series
against New Zealand.
92 Average percentage increase awarded to the 72 major league
players who went through salary arbitration, the lowest average
increase since 1996.
2 Points scored by players who came off the Hornets' bench in the
team's 125-123 win over the Grizzlies last Friday.
10 Minutes by which the Diamondbacks will shorten batting
practice before home night games this year so that players can
spend that time signing autographs.
50 Tickets given away by the AHL's Cincinnati Mighty Ducks on its
Feb. 21 Cory Pecker Night, which honored the team's rookie right
wing with a buy-one-get-one-free promotion for all fans named
Peter, Richard or William.
FOR THE RECORD
Renamed A six-mile stretch of Route 28 in Loudon County, Va.,
Darrell Green Boulevard, in honor of the Redskins cornerback who
wore number 28 for Washington for 20 seasons before his recent
retirement. Green, 43, was once widely regarded as the fastest
man in football. He played in three Super Bowls and is the
Redskins' leader in interceptions, with 54. In January, Green
(right) was a guest of Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R.,
Tenn.) at the State of the Union address and two days later
President Bush appointed Green, whose foundation has been running
programs for disadvantaged children for 15 years, chairman of the
President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. In the
nonpaying post Green will oversee an awards program that
recognizes extraordinary volunteers.
Announced By five-time Canadian Tour winner Brian Kontak, 31,
that he will attempt to qualify for the July 3 U.S. Women's Open
in North Plains, Ore. Kontak, who plays on the Nationwide Tour,
has not revealed how he plans to gender-bend the tour entry
rules, which state that players "must be female at birth." Though
PGA Tour rookie Chris Anderson called his friend's crusade a cry
for publicity, Kontak, who has failed to make the PGA Tour at Q
school, says he's on a quest to expose the double standard that
he feels has been set by Annika Sorenstam's entry in the PGA's
Colonial tournament on May 22. "If we're going to be equal, then
let's be equal," says Kontak.
Sued Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, by a man who claims Gibson
assaulted him during an altercation at a highway gas station in
Nebraska last year. Truck driver Miguel Sanchez is seeking $4,711
for lost wages, bloodied clothes and medical bills as a result of
the February 2002 fight. Each man claims self-defense and says
the other threw the first punch. Sanchez, 46, says he passed
Gibson, 67, on the highway and that Gibson followed him to the
gas station where he hit Sanchez without provocation. Gibson says
he followed Sanchez seeking reimbursement for his eyeglasses,
which were broken after Sanchez's car allegedly cut him off.
Gibson slammed on his brakes and banged his head on the
windshield. In the fight, Sanchez suffered a cut over his eye
that needed five stitches; Gibson reported no injuries.
Banned From entering the ring at Japan's Spring Grand Sumo
Tournament for the fourth straight year, Osaka's Fusae Ota,
Japan's first female governor. The tournament trophy is
customarily presented by the governor of Osaka, but since Ota was
elected in 2000, that tradition has been trumped by a much older
one holding that under no circumstances are women to enter the
dohyo, sumo's ring. Ota has convinced the Japanese Sumo
Association to conduct a nationwide survey on the issue. "It is a
big step forward that fans will be consulted on the matter," said
Ota, who has not contacted Martha Burk for assistance. "What with
sumo having a long history and tradition, this kind of problem
will not go away at once."
Died Pro snowboarder Jeff Anderson, 23, after falling 50 feet
while attempting to slide down the banister of a winding
five-story staircase in a Nagano hotel early on Sunday morning.
He fell from the fourth floor to the first, landed on his head
and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at about 3 a.m.
Anderson, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., was in Japan for the Nippon
Nicknamed Slash by his Brewers teammates,
pitcher/outfielder/spring curiosity Brooks Kieschnick, who is
trying make the team as both a righthanded reliever and a
lefthanded bat off the bench. If he's successful, he'll be the
majors' first two-way player since Willie Smith did it for
several teams during the 1960s. "It's a blast," Kieschnick said.
"I'm having so much fun. I get to be involved in the whole game."
In one madcap moment at the Brewers complex in Phoenix last week,
Kieschnick threw batting practice to teammates, then swapped his
cap for a helmet and took his own cuts. "I'm not sure I'm smart
enough to know how to use him," manager Ned Yost said. "There are
so many possibilities."
Kieschnick, 30, starred as an outfielder and pitcher at the
University of Texas. He gave up pitching after the Cubs drafted
him in 1993 and has toiled in the minors, getting just 173 big
league at bats with three teams. Last year Cleveland cut him
during spring training, but before leaving, Kieschnick, who
throws in the mid-90s and has a curveball and changeup, asked the
Indians to watch him pitch. "I didn't want to be 40 and wonder
what would have happened if I'd tried pitching," he says. After
seeing him throw, the Indians weren't interested. Kieschnick
began practicing with the Northern League's Brockton (Mass.) Rox,
where a White Sox scout saw him throwing on the side. That led to
a job with Chicago's Triple A team in Charlotte, where Kieschnick
had a 2.59 ERA in 31 1/3 innings and hit .275 with 13 homers in
189 at bats. He wasn't re-signed, but after he pitched well in
winter ball in Puerto Rico, Milwaukee picked him up. "He's
legit," Yost said. "His pitching mechanics are good, and he's got
a power bat." For now Kieschnick works out mainly with the
pitchers, but he'll soon begin spending more time with the
outfielders. Explained Kieschnick, "You don't want to wear
yourself out." --Tom Verducci
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
FEBRUARY 28--MARCH 6
FRIDAY 2/28 > ESPN 8 PM > Magic at Knicks
It's Ewing Night at the Garden as the Knicks raise Patrick's
number 33 jersey to the rafters. Will the team also honor his
legacy by losing in the final seconds?
SATURDAY 3/1 > ESPN 4 PM > Kings at Spurs
Two weeks ago the Spurs hung on for a 104--101 win in Sacramento,
making them the only team to beat the Kings at home twice this
SATURDAY 3/1 > ESPN2 6 PM > USA Indoor Track Championships
The top two finishers in each event will go on to represent Team
USA at the 2003 World Indoor Track & Field Championships, to be
held March 14--16 in Birmingham, England.
SATURDAY 3/1 > HBO PAY-PER-VIEW 9 PM > Roy Jones Jr. (47--1, 38
KOs) vs. John Ruiz (3841, 27 KOs)
Jones may be the world's best pound-for-pound boxer, but can he
win giving away 40 pounds? If Jones (who is expected to weigh in
at 190) beats WBA champ Ruiz, he'll become just the second
reigning light heavyweight champ (Michael Spinks is the first) to
win a heavyweight belt.
SUNDAY 3/2 > FOX 2:30 PM > UAW--Daimler Chrysler 400
NASCAR roars into Sin City as Sterling Marlin defends his title
at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
>> DON'T MISS
MONDAY 3/3 > SHOWTIME 9 PM
Bud Greenspan's Stories of Olympic Glory
A documentary on the Salt Lake City Games from the bald Bard of
the Olympiad. It features the gold medal hockey game between the
U.S. and Canada, U.S. skeleton gold medalist Jimmy Shea and
Croatian skier Janica Kostelic.
Martha's Target: CBS
Martha Burk is planning one final attempt to get the Masters off
TV. Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations,
told SI she will request a meeting with CBS president Les Moonves
in the next few weeks in which she will again ask the network not
to broadcast the tournament it has aired since 1956. "Time is
growing short," Burk says. "They probably will broadcast it, but
we'll ask them not to." Burk thinks her chances of seeing Moonves
are "fairly low but not zero." On Monday a Moonves spokesman
declined to comment to SI on this subject and referred the matter
to CBS Sports.
Since the Masters controversy erupted last summer, CBS has
maintained that it will broadcast the tournament, which begins on
April 10. Last September, CBS Sports president Sean McManus wrote
to Burk, who is campaigning to persuade Augusta National to
change its policy and admit female members, saying that failing
to televise the Masters "would be a disservice to fans of this
Burk told SI that she will be in Augusta for the Masters, but she
hasn't said what she'll do there except that "I have no plans to
try to get inside the tournament, because I know CBS Sports would
not cover [my attempt]." Burk added that CBS--which agreed to air
the Masters without commercials after Augusta chairman Hootie
Johnson arranged for his club to be the sole sponsor of the event
this year--is "completely cowed by Augusta National. I am sure
that if I set my hair on fire on the 1st tee and CBS Sports put
it on camera, they would never get back in the game again. I know
they wouldn't have the courage to cover anything we did on the
inside." A spokesperson for CBS Sports would say only, "We have
not discussed our plans for our coverage this year." --Richard
One familiar face who finds himself unfamiliar with his spring
training surroundings is the Mets' ace lefthander Tom Glavine.
He signed with New York in December, ending one of baseball's
longest stints with a single team. Glavine had pitched for the
Braves for 16 seasons. Which major leaguer has the
longest tenure with his current team?
a. Craig Biggio c. Edgar Martinez
b. Barry Larkin d. John Smoltz
The only man to play in both of the last two World Series is
suiting up for a new team this year. Who is he, whom did he
play for in the Series, and for which team will he play this
This Week's Matchup
Pair the players who were traded for each other at one time in their careers.
1. Roberto Alomar a. Delino DeShields
2. Keith Foulke b. Jason Grimsley
3. Pedro Martinez c. Roberto Hernandez
4. Curt Schilling d. Fred McGriff
Call to Order
Put these teams in order of most players on their 40-man
rosters who were not with the teams at the end of last season.
a. Cubs c. Red Sox
b. Phillies d. Yankees
NEW ADDRESS: b. Shortstop Barry Larkin has played for the Reds
since 1986. Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who debuted
with the Mariners in '87, is next on the list.
MR. OCTOBER: Outfielder Reggie Sanders played in both the 2001
and '02 World Series and has appeared in 13 of the last 14 Series
games. He was with the world champion Diamondbacks in '01 and
last season played for the National League champion Giants. He's
expected to be the Pirates' starting leftfielder this year.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. d; 2. c; 3. a ; 4. b
CALL TO ORDER: Red Sox (17 new players); Cubs (10); Yankees (8);
"Martha Burk is planning one final attempt to get the Masters off
TV." --UNDER REVIEW, PAGE 28