Zac BodenheimerDr. Rambo English 101-132 December 2004 Unfair for Ephedra? On June 24 at 10: 10 a. m. a Baltimore Orioles pitcher named Steve Bechler died at North Ridge Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The team physician attributed his death to a heat stroke from the symptoms he saw such as an elevated body temperature of 108 degrees and major organ failure (Mileur pars. 2-3). However, as his death was investigated and his corpse was examined more closely a medical examiner said that Bechler's use of an herbal supplement called was a large causal factor to his death (Mileur, par. 4). What is this mysterious herb that has caused such controversy among doctors and physicians? Does it warrant the strict and severe penalties for possessing it that have recently emerged? Should it be available to enhance the performance of professional and pre-professional athletes everywhere? Ephedra is a notorious supplement that has not been thoroughly researched enough to know its effects and cannot be safely administered to athletes or any person of the general population. Ephedra is a substance that has recently been banned in the United States.

The compound contains ephedrine, a substance "used to relieve nasal congestion originating from allergic conditions, e. g. , hay fever, or from bacterial or viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It may be used as well to raise blood pressure" ("Ephedrine").

Because of its ability to raise blood pressure and increase the metabolism, it has been widely produced and advertised as a weight loss supplement ("Ephedrine"). It has also been used "in the production of methamphetamine", an illegal drug that affects the brain ("Ephedrine"). The adverse side effects and certain people's unhealthy reactions to the herb caused it to fall under the careful scrutiny of the United States Food and Drug Administration. On February 6 th, 2004, the FDA banned the supplement stating, "We have concluded that dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids pose a risk of serious adverse events, including heart attack, stroke, and death, and that these risks are unreasonable in light of any benefits that may result from the use of these products" (par.

2). At this point, the ban still exists on and any product containing the substance. Even though has been banned, what are its effects upon athletes? Can it really produce a heightened and more skilled performance and can that merit its existence on the market? In one study, researchers "found that a combination of caffeine and ephedrine significantly improved male subjects' time to exhaustion when compared with male subjects who consumed a placebo" (Antonio 17). However, does the increase in performance warrant the enlarged health risk? Obviously does not come without danger.

In March of 1994, "10 teenagers were rushed to Texas emergency rooms with severe reactions to diet pills containing ephedrine" (Berg 76). Though some believe that these supplements only affect professional athletes this is not the case. The problem is that in the realm of professional sports there are controls and bans on certain substances, however, "high school athletes, exempt from urine tests and sanctions, can use and abuse it and other supplements at will" (Wright 28). Also, it has been reported that despite a ban on the substance by the NCAA, "92% of athletes who reported use of stimulants in the last 30 days were aware of the NCAA ban on ephedrine" (Bents par. 18). Ephedra's ability to give athletes a heightened sense of awareness and energy is very attractive to the majority of competitors, but it does come at a risk.

Also, this risk is almost never fully conveyed or acknowledged when ephedrine containing products are sold. It is this lack of education or warning that has caused such controversy over and has increased the health problems that have resulted. The majority of Americans today associate ephedrine and products with weight loss. However, is in no way a weight loss substance. The advertisement of as a "miracle" weight loss pill is what has caused many people to have health problems as a result of taking the supplement. "Ephedrine is seldom used now for its legal use as a decongestant, says Gary Dewhurst, RPh, Hettinger, N.

D. past president and chairman of the board of the North Dakota Pharmacy Association. It has too many severe reactions and unfortunate side effects, such as heart damage, stroke or seizures, especially when abused, and it is often abused by 'kids who want to feel jumpy and hyper"" (qt d. in Berg par.

7). The side effects of have caused it to be marketed as a pill for weight loss, but clinically it is used for respiratory and sinus problems. Frances Berg discusses the deceit of the marketers when she states, "The new twist is that some pills have suggestive names like 'Mini Thin,' so diet conscious customers easily recognize them as weight loss products. However, the promoters make no claims for them as diet pills, and pretend they are being sold as decongestants" (par.

5). It is this type of false advertising that leads many people who are not "good" candidates for the product to take it thinking it will harmlessly take off a couple of pounds. However, the health problems that ephedrine presents for the unwary teenager or young adult who take it have led to its extinction from supermarket shelves everywhere. Although has caused some health hazards for people, it is many times attributed with many problems that it did not cause. An example of this is with the aforementioned baseball player Steve Bechler. He had many preexisting conditions that were the main source of his heat stroke and eventual death.

Richard Kreider, a licensed physician, states that Bechler had "a prior history of heat illness episodes while in high school- which heightens the probability of reoccurring incidents; a history of hypertension and liver problems; [and] he had not eaten solid food for a day or two, in an apparent attempt to lose weight" (150). Kreider also states that proper screening prior to Bechler's participation in his team's training camp would have identified his need for proper physical and nutritional counseling before he did such strenuous exercise (151). "It seems that Major League Baseball and others want to blame for the death of Mr. Bechler, rather than admit that they may have been negligent in screening, conditioning, and supervising their athletes" (Kreider 151).

Ephedra has become a scapegoat for many problems that it is not responsible for. However, it has still not been researched enough to allow it to be sold to everyone in America. Possible exceptions are with a doctor's prescription and screening, but it is not understood enough to be allowed to be marketed across the nation. Ephedra has been a very popular supplement among athletes. However, is taking a supplement to better your performance right? The author Williams Morgan says, "The relatively widespread use of such drugs... to enhance performance dates back to the Olympics of the 1960 s" (119).

The act of taking supplements such as ephedrine and steroids to improve athletic performance is not something that has just recently surfaced. Lately, Major League Baseball has had an enormous growth in the amount of players who are suspects of steroid use. Has the idea of fair and equal competition totally disappeared in today's society, or is it okay to take performance enhancing drugs? Williams says that the point of athletics is a "competition between two person's athletic ability, not the way bodies react to drugs" (126). Therefore, athletes should not want to gain an unfair advantage by taking drugs that will make them stronger and faster. But until the athletes choose to compete fairly and equally there will always be illegal substances in the world of sports. Even though has been banned in the athletic and civilian realm many people are looking for substitutes for the substance.

Today many pills that claim to be "-free" are full of caffeine and other substances that should not be consumed in high doses. "University of Arkansas's Bill Gurley, PhD, has studied these supplements and warns that the most-common substitutes -- (or 'bitter orange'), , and -- may raise your heart rate and blood pressure like " ("Beware" 58). Although these substances are currently not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it is likely that some sorts of parameters are soon to come. The lack of knowledge and studies that have been done create a very risky situation for people who haphazardly take these supplements for reasons other than medical conditions.

Many people today are looking for supplements such as that can improve their looks, performance, or health without having to make sacrifices such as diet and exercise. They are harming themselves by carelessly taking things without knowing or caring about their effects. Though can produce desirable effects for athletes looking to improve their performance it comes with a risk. Also, athletes should compete fairly without the help of any performance enhancing supplement. The fundamental aspect of athletics is that the contestants should participate fairly and the ones who work the hardest should win. Another problem is that many teenagers and young adults are taking and other supplements because of the lack of accountability at the high school level.

Also, they want to emulate the famous athletes that are taking and other substances. Ephedra is a substance that has not been thoroughly researched enough to allow it to be marketed freely. Until it can be proven safe, it should remain banned from the athletic and civilian world. Works Cited Antonio, Jose. Supplements for Endurance Athletes. New York: Human Kinetics, 2002.

Bents, Robert T. , et al. "Ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine, and Amphetamine Prevalence in College Hockey Players." Physician and Sports medicine 32. 9 (2004): 30-35. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCOhost.

Campbell U, Carrie Rich Lib. 26 Nov. 2004. Berg, Frances. "The ephedrine connection: Why people are dying." Healthy Weight Journal 9.

4 (1995): 76. Academic Search Premier... EBSCOhost. Campbell U, Carrie Rich Lib. 26 Nov. 2004." Beware Ephedra Substitutes." Prevention 56.

1 (2004): 58. Academic Search Premier... EBSCOhost. Campbell U, Carrie Rich Lib. 26 Nov. 2004." Ephedrine." Columbia Encyclopedia.

6 th ed. 2004. Ed. High Beam Research, LLC. 2004. 27 Nov.

2004. Kreider, Richard B. , et al. "The Real Truth About Ephedra." Muscle and Fitness. 64.

6 (2003): 150-151. Mileur, Ray. "Steve Bechler dies at 23." Baseball library. com. Ed. The Ideal Logical Company, Inc.

2002. 26 Nov. 2004. Morgan, Williams, et al. Ethics in Sports.

Champaign e: Human Kinetics, 2001. United States Dept. of Health and Human Services. Food and Drug Admin. Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedrine Alkaloids Final Rule Summary.

Feb. 2004. 25 Nov. 2004. Wright, Karen. "Bigger, Faster, Stronger Powders, hormones, and herbs may boost performance-riskily." Discover 23.

2 (2002): 28-29. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCOhost. Campbell U, Carrie Rich Lib. 26 Nov. 2004..