Steve Bechler, Major League Baseball Player, 1979-2002
Born November 28, 1979, RHP Steven Scott Bechler was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 3rd round in the 1998 amateur draft. Now, by all accounts, Steve Bechler should be little more than a footnote in the history of Major League Baseball. In the time that followed his introduction to the Orioles organisation, Bechler only made a few appearances in for the major league club, spending much of his career bouncing back and forth between A and Triple-A teams in the Orioles' farm system. When Bechler finally broke into the major leagues on September 7, 2002, he pitched two innings versus the Anaheim Angels, allowing one run. In all Bechler pitched in a mere three games for the Orioles.
No, from a statistical perspective, Bechler doesn't have a great deal of relevance to Major League Baseball. What happened during spring training in 2003, however, is another issue.
On February 17, 2003, during the Orioles' morning workouts, Bechler collapsed following a conditioning run. Rushed to the hospital, it was initially determined that he was suffering from severe dehydration. His condition worsened, however, and by 10:10 AM, Bechler was pronounced dead, with complications due to heatstroke named as the primary cause. The story of Bechler doesn't end here, however.
While in transport to the hospital, the paramedics on the scene were handed a dietary supplement found in Bechler's locker. This supplement. Xenadrine, turned out to contain Ephedra, a controversial herbal compound used by athletes around the world to increase energy and improve weight loss.
It didn't take doctors long to link Bechler's apparent overuse of ephedra to his death; Bechler's collapse was not much unlike the death of NFL offensive lineman Korey Stringer, less than two years prior; in both cases, supplements containing ephedra were found with the players' equipment. Indeed, these were just two in an ever-increasing handful of athletic deaths linked to the use of this supplement.
Indeed, Steve Bechler is no longer a mere footnote in the annals of Major League Baseball. Ten days after his death, Major League Baseball announced the ban of the ephedra in its minor league system -- although neither a timetable nor regulations were ever enacted for the major leagues. This is in stark contrast to the NFL, which banned the substance across the board following Stringer's death.
In July of 2003, Bechler's family testified before Congress regarding ephedra supplements. Shortly thereafter, on December 30, 2003, the US FDA announced an impending ban on the sale of herbal supplements containing ephedra. Coinciding with this announcement was a statement by former Cy Young Award-winner and Orioles vice president of business operations, Mike Flanagan, in support of the federal ban.
See also: Everything Quests: Athletes and Sports Figures