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NFL bans epehedra as performance enhancer

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NFL has banned the stimulant ephedra as a performance enhancer, a source familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The league and the NFL Players Association agreed on the decision. The ban is immediate, although a plan for testing ephedra still is being formed.

Use of the herbal stimulant in highly competitive situations has been linked to heart attacks, strokes and seizures in otherwise healthy young people.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine last November said at least 54 deaths and about 1,000 reports of complications have been linked to the popular bodybuilding supplement since the mid-1990s. The Food and Drug Administration has since said about 80 deaths have been associated with ephedra.

``We've been talking about this for a while with the league,'' NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw told The New York Times, which originally reported the ban. ``It's time to be proactive in this area. It may not be popular with some of our players, but it is needed because we just don't know enough about these substance and we have to be careful.'

Upshaw has said that the death of Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer of heatstroke has made the union more diligent in its approach to stimulants.

Products containing ephedra often are sold in health food stores. There are hundreds of unregulated ephedra products on the market.

The NFL and its union are concerned that ephedra in strong doses for performance enhancement reasons has the potential for doing harm. Ephedra also can be found in such products as herbal tea, where it is present in such small amounts that it is not believed harmful.

John Hathcock of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for supplement makers, said that while excessive use of any stimulant can be harmful, ``ephedra can be used safely and responsibly. Those with hypertension and heart disease should avoid it.''
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