- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. The chief medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler said yesterday members of the team and staff "went overboard" to cooperate with the investigation into Bechler's death.
That added credence to the club's assertion that it swiftly did everything it could to save Bechler's life after he fell victim to heatstroke Sunday morning.
"The team and manager and everyone were very cooperative," Dr. Joshua Perper said. "They were very determined to present the whole information. They were open about it."
During a time when nearly everyone around the team is asking what he could have done to prevent the tragedy, Perper's judgment provided some solace. Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, yesterday thanked many of the team's employees for their work in recent days.
"We couldn't be more proud of our people who had to step up in a dire situation," Flanagan said. "When systems that have been in place for years and not tested at that level, when it came to action, to people stepping up above and beyond to take care of a family member, you couldn't be more proud of the way it was handled. … The word I kept hearing throughout was 'flawless.' So many people had to be involved to do the right thing."
Perhaps the only example of poor judgment occurred just before Bechler was placed on a stretcher and taken to North Ridge Medical Center. That's when pitcher Matt Riley, a close friend, said he took the bottle of Xenadrine RFA-1, after the paramedics had taken note of it, that had been in Bechler's locker and threw it in the trash.
Riley said his reaction wasn't intended to cover up Bechler's use of the ephedrine-based supplement.
"He wasn't trying to conceal something," Flanagan said. "It was more anger in that case. I don't read too much into it. It was an angry reaction to the situation."
Said Riley: "There's nothing to hide. All we're trying to do is get to the bottom of it and find out what's the true cause of the problem. I have no problem coming out, because I want the substance banned. I lost a teammate and a great friend from this stuff, and it's just not worth anybody else losing a friend or teammate over."
A member of Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue Station 53, which responded to the Bechler emergency, said yesterday that paramedics typically will only make note of a medication found at a scene and not take it to the hospital.
Perper has said he is confident he now has the original bottle of Xenadrine RFA-1 that was found in Bechler's locker.
Perper said he wanted to speak to Orioles owner Peter Angelos to voice his support for the ban of ephedrine in baseball. Angelos told a group of reporters Wednesday night that he wanted baseball to ban the substance or Congress to add it to its list of Schedule 3 drugs, meaning it would only be available with a prescription.
Yesterday Gene Orza, associate general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, refuted Angelos' claim that during negotiations for the last collective bargaining agreement, the owners pushed to have ephedrine included on a list of banned substances.
"They did request androstenedione [be banned]," Orza told the Associated Press, "but not ephedra. Ephedra did not fall into the general category of anabolic steroids."
Orza did, however, echo something Angelos had said Wednesday, that the union likely would have fought a ban on ephedrine because it is legal and readily available to the public.
Dr. Carlon Colker, CEO and medical director of Peak Wellness Inc., said yesterday on a conference call that ephedra is not at fault.
"So far, I have trouble believing ephedra played a role in this tragedy," Colker said. "This was clearly a case of heatstroke. Taking ephedra as directed does not lead to heat stroke."
Meanwhile, Flanagan said the club knows how it's going to handle providing some portion of Bechler's salary to his wife, Kiley, but will not release the information. "We just want to make sure that everything is done correctly," Flanagan said. "There's protocol we have to follow through with Major League Baseball."


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