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Ballplayer's Widow Sues Makers of Ephedra Supplement

The widow of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler (search) filed a $600 million lawsuit Thursday against the manufacturer of a dietary supplement containing ephedra (search), according to her attorney.

The lawsuit calls the product, Xenadrine RFA-1 (search), a "poisonous cocktail" unsafe for human consumption.

"Steve Bechler is dead. Ephedra killed him," the lawsuit said. The lawsuit alleged the defendants put profits ahead of consumer safety and endangered the public welfare.

The lawsuit names as defendants Manasquan, N.J.-based Cytodyne Technologies (search), Hicksville, N.Y.-based Phoenix Laboratories (search) and Cytodene's president, Robert Chinery. A receptionist who answered the phone Thursday afternoon at Cytodyne said no one was immediately available to comment.

The 23-year-old Bechler was taking the supplement to lose weight at the start of spring training when he collapsed Feb. 16 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. His body temperature rose to more than 108 degrees and he died the next day.

A bottle of Xenadrine RFA-1 was found in Bechler's locker.

Toxicology tests confirmed "significant amounts" of an over-the-counter supplement containing ephedra led to Bechler's heatstroke, along with other factors, Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper said.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.

Bechler's widow, Kiley, is seeking damages for the loss of her husband and a ban on the sale of ephedra-based products, according to a statement from her attorney, David Meiselman.

"It's a simple case of corporate and personal greed being placed ahead of consumer safety and the public welfare," Meiselman said.

In the past, Cytodyne has criticized Meiselman for blaming the company, saying Bechler had a history of heat-related illnesses.

Ephedra products are marketed in drug stores, convenience stores and gyms as a weight-loss and energy miracle pill made from natural herbs, but the Food and Drug Administration has said the drug is blamed for nearly 120 deaths nationwide.

Ephedrine use is banned by the NCAA, the International Olympic Committee and the NFL, but not major league baseball.