NEW YORK (AP) _ The National Football League banned the stimulant ephedrine Thursday because of concerns that the substance, often found in strength-building food supplements, can cause seizures, strokes and even death.
The ban will be part of the league's anti-steroid policy, which means that players will be subject to random testing for the substances.
Football becomes the first major professional sport to ban ephedrine, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. It has long been banned in college athletics and by the International Olympic Committee.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced the policy Thursday in a memo to the 31 teams.
``This strengthening of our policy responds to the recent introduction of new substances, as well as new evidence addressing the risks associated with certain products already on the market,'' Tagliabue said.
Tagliabue said the testing of players won't begin until further consultations with the NFL Players Association, which has approved the ban but not the timing.
The league said Dr. John Lombardo, the NFL's chief adviser on steroids, told players last December there was growing evidence linking ephedrine to fatal heart rhythm, strokes, and seizures.
Ephedrine, an amphetamine-like stimulant, is sold in a few over-the-counter asthma medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Ephedrine's herbal form, ephedra, is an ingredient in about 200 unregulated supplements for weight loss, building muscle or boosting energy, and occasionally in large doses as an ``herbal high.'' Under a 1994 federal law, the FDA does not test dietary supplements before they are marketed.
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine last November said that at least 54 deaths and about 1,000 reports of complications have been linked to the popular bodybuilding supplement since the mid-1990s.
The FDA has since said about 80 deaths have been associated with ephedra.
The NFL's new policy bans the use or distribution of products with ephedrine alkaloids, unless they are prescribed for medical use by a team physician. It also bans teams and players from endorsements with manufacturers or distributors of those substances.