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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 11, 2003
1:12 PM
CONTACT:  League of Fans
Ralph Nader (202) 387-8030
Shawn McCarthy (202) 387-8030
Email: shawn@essential.org
Ralph Nader and League of Fans Urge Leaders to Take Real Action Against Ephedra and Dietary Supplement Law
 
WASHINGTON - March 11 - In the aftermath of the tragic Spring Training death of 23-year-old Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler and the continued lack of commitment toward needed changes in ephedra and supplement policies, Ralph Nader and League of Fans today urged professional sports leagues, players' unions, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Congress to take immediate action against ephedra and the 1994 law that allows dietary supplements to go unregulated.

"Our citizens should never be used as guinea pigs for dietary supplements with no guarantee of product safety," Ralph Nader said. "How many more ephedra-related seizures, strokes, heart attacks, and deaths have to occur before our leaders take action?"

Unlike drug products that must be proven by the FDA to be safe and effective for their intended use before marketing, the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) frees any product that calls itself a dietary supplement, like ephedra, from federal regulation before they reach the consumer and does not require manufacturers and distributors to record, investigate or forward to the FDA any reports they receive of injuries or illnesses that may be related to the use of their products.

"Congress must repeal the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994," stressed Nader. "Public health and safety needs to come before the interests of the powerful and well-funded supplement industry that showers congressional Republicans and Democrats with political contributions."

According to Public Citizen's Health Research Group, ephedra is responsible for more than 100 deaths and hundreds of other cases of serious damage to users (many of which are extremely well-documented and have occurred at recommended doses). There are more reports of death, stroke, arrhythmia, heart attacks, chest pain, seizures and hypertension for ephedra than for all other dietary supplements combined.

Although DSHEA leaves the burden of proof on the FDA rather than supplement companies, the law allows the FDA to prohibit sale of a dietary supplement if it "presents a significant or unreasonable risk of injury." But despite the overwhelming, unequivocal evidence of the dangers of ephedra (including more than 100 reports of death in the possession of the FDA and the admitted legal authority for a ban), the FDA refused a ban, proposing a warning label instead.

"It is irresponsible that the FDA has the evidence to immediately ban dietary supplements containing ephedra from the marketplace but still fails to do so," Nader said. "This is another example of a government regulatory agency falling to their knees under pressure from a powerful industry that will continue to cause deaths and serious illnesses."

In the sports world, the mounting, high-profile disasters involving ephedra are well documented. Nader praised the NFL, NCAA, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee for doing their part to prevent ephedra-related tragedies among their athletes.

"It is encouraging to see that there are a few principled sports leagues and governing bodies who refuse to wait for Congress or the FDA to act," said Nader. "Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL and their respective players' unions need to show the same leadership before more preventable illnesses or deaths occur in professional sports from ephedra-containing products or other potentially dangerous dietary supplements."

Shawn McCarthy, director of the sports industry watchdog League of Fans, advocated for the major professional sports leagues and unions to use their influence to lobby Congress to repeal DSHEA and pressure the FDA to take ephedra-containing supplements off the market.

"The leagues and players should tell our government to stop allowing the sports-supplement industry to use professional athletes as test subjects," McCarthy said. "Those companies are changing the culture of sports, and creating a public health menace all the way down to the junior high athletes who easily purchase and fill their lockers with unregulated supplements and performance-enhancers so they can be like the pros."

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and author. He is the founder of League of Fans. Shawn McCarthy is the director of League of Fans, based in Washington, DC. The mission of League of Fans is to improve sports by working as a sports industry watchdog to increase awareness of the industry's relationship to society, expose irresponsible business practices, ensure fan accountability, and encourage the sports industry to contribute to societal well-being. The League of Fans website is www.leagueoffans.org.

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