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Timeline: Ephedra

The following are major events related to ephedra (search):

-- 1994: Law passed allowing dietary supplements to be sold over-the-counter with little oversight unless the FDA could prove a clear danger to public health.

-- 1997: Manufacturers blocked an attempt by the FDA (search) to restrict sales of certain dosages of ephedra and to put warning labels on the herb by arguing the agency lacked enough proof of danger.

-- Sept. 2001: The National Football League became the first major U.S. professional sports league to ban the stimulant. The drug is also banned by the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee. The Major League Baseball Players Association later banned ephedra for players with minor league contracts.

-- August 2002: The Justice Department began conducting a criminal investigation into whether Metabolife International lied about the safety of ephedra.

-- Feb. 17, 2003: Steve Bechler (search), a 23-year-old pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, died of heat stroke one day after collapsing during spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The medical examiner said ephedra contributed to Bechler's heatstroke.

-- Feb. 28: The FDA ordered labels to be put on products with ephedra warning of the possibility of heart attacks, strokes or death. The agency said it would re-examine a ban.

-- May 2: Nutritional supplement retailer General Nutrition Centers announced it would stop selling products containing the weight-loss supplement.

-- May 26: Illinois became the first state to ban ephedra. California followed in October, along with New York in November.

-- June: The federal government began building a case that could lead to the supplement's ban.

-- July 1: The Federal Trade Commission announced two companies that promoted ephedra dietary supplements to repay customers $370,000 to resolve federal charges of deceptive advertising.

-- July 17: The widow of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler sued the manufacturer and the distributor of a dietary supplement containing ephedra for $600 million. The lawsuit also sought a ban on the sale of ephedra-based products.

-- July: FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan told House members the agency is considering a ban on the drug. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson urged Congress to rewrite a law that rolled back dietary-supplement regulations and to require manufacturers to tell the FDA about potential side effects.

-- Dec. 30: The Bush administration announced it would ban the herbal weight-loss supplement ephedra from the marketplace because of concerns about its effects on health. The ban would take effect in 60 days.