- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos expressed deep-felt sorrow last night at the death of minor-league pitcher Steve Bechler earlier this week and stated the position of baseball owners remains to ban ephedrine-based substances, one of which Bechler was almost certainly taking the day of his death.
Speaking after a memorial service to honor Bechler at the Orioles' spring training complex last night, Angelos said his desire is either to have Major League Baseball ban substances like ephedrine, a derivative of the herb ephedra, in drugs, or have baseball lobby Congress to add such drugs to the "schedule 3" list. "Schedule 3" drugs are those that are only available from a pharmacist with a prescription.
Angelos believes Bechler's death will push forward the process to get some type of regulations on ephedrine-based drugs. Bechler's death "brings home the point to get 'legal' substances under control and be included in 'schedule 3' drugs," Angelos said. He also cited the support of commissioner Bud Selig on putting forth tougher drug regulations in baseball.
Ephedrine is legal, contained in weight-loss supplements like Xenadrine RFA-1, which Bechler had in his locker, cold medications and other over-the-counter products available at supermarkets and convenience stores.
Angelos was on the owners' negotiating committee last bargaining session that resulted in the collective bargaining agreement reached with the players' association last August. He said the owners insisted on a ban on substances like ephedrine during negotiations but the players' association balked, saying that since the substances are legal, there should be no ban and the owners cannot prohibit it. Angelos did acknowledge that even if ephedrine-based drugs are declared "schedule 3" drugs, that still doesn't mean that usage will be eliminated.
"I certainly would like to see the union reconsider their position," Angelos said. "The commissioner, since a year ago, has pushed for these drugs to be prohibited. … We need to address the problem immediately and follow the lead of the commissioner who has been advocating this for a long time. Obviously the Bechler situation tells us that it is long overdue and we can move in that direction."
Angelos said the players' union took a major step forward in agreeing to limited testing for steroids, but needs to go further. He also said a majority of major league and minor league players side with the owners on the matter, but union leadership is dug in against the bans proposed by the owners.
Angelos brought with him to the session with reporters a copy of the pamphlet that all major league players are given warning of the dangers of some legal, over-the-counter drugs, including ephedrine.
"[These drugs] are a problem in society, not just among athletes, in a desire to gain a competitive advantage," Angelos said. "… And there are grave consequences, as this tragedy teaches us."
And, Angelos said, he wants the lesson to be put into action.
"Unfortunately, we are human," he said. "We don't move energetically or adequately unless something very grim or tragic like this occurs, and that very well may be the case here. It's a tragedy this young man died, but hopefully we can move forward to get accomplished we need in these circumstances."


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