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May 25, 2003

Blagojevich signs legislation banning sale of ephedra
Landmark law is only one in the nation

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that makes Illinois the only state in the nation to ban the sale of ephedra -- the controversial herbal weight-loss, bodybuilding and athletic enhancing supplement that has been linked to more than 100 deaths and 18,000 other medical problems – and he called on other states to follow suit.


“With enough commitment, this ban can sweep through state legislatures across America and sweep this product right off the shelf,” Blagojevich said.  “It is my hope that today we’ll get this ball rolling.  I’m proud of the fact that Illinois is leading the way with this important legislation and doing the right thing by Illinois consumers.”


The governor said there is no good reason to take an ephedra product that offers “essentially no benefits” and noted sadly “for many people, it can lead to death.”


The governor was joined at the bill signing by Chicago Bears All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher; DePaul University Director of Athletics Jean Lenti Ponsetto, who also is chair of the NCAA Championship Committee that decided to prohibit the use of epehdra among college athletes; the sponsors of the legislation -- Senate Bill 1418 – state Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago; and Debbie and Kevin Riggins of Lincoln.


The Riggins are the parents of 16-year-old Sean Riggins who died in September 2002 after taking ephedra to boost his athletic performance on the Lincoln High School football team.  Blagojevich praised the Riggins’ for their commitment to raising public awareness about the dangers of ephedra and helping to get the legislation passed.


“You’ve done so much for so many by getting ephedra off the market,” Blagojevich told the Riggins.  “Every parent in Illinois is in your debt.  There is no way to bring Sean back and tragically there are going to be more young people in America who die from taking ephedra before this battle is over.  But no one can doubt that in the state of Illinois, the health and safety of our children comes before industry profits.


“We’ve started a movement here today and I know Kevin and Debbie won’t stop until every governor in the nation signs into law an ephedra ban in their state.”


The governor also thanked Urlacher for appearing at the bill signing and raising awareness about the dangers of ephedra.  “Young athletes need to know that ephedra isn’t the ticket to an easy victory,” Blagojevich said.  “Nothing can replace talent and hard work.  Brian is living proof and he’s a role model who cares about kids.”


Dietary supplements containing ephedra have been linked to 117 deaths nationwide and 18,000 reports of other medical problems, including strokes, heart attacks, seizures, psychosis and incidents of heat stroke, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Ephedra has been partly blamed for the 2001 death of Northwestern football player Rashidi Wheeler and 23-year-old Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, who died of heat stroke in February.  In banning the sale of ephedra, the U.S. military cited 33 members of the military who died after taking the controversial supplement.


Medical groups, such as the American Medical Association, Illinois State Medical Society and the American Heart Association, have all called for a ban on supplements containing ephedra. 


The National Basketball Association, National Football League, NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the International Olympic Committee have prohibited athletes from using products containing ephedra. 


The legislation, which is effective immediately, makes it a misdemeanor to sell ephedra supplements in the state and is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  Repeat offenders could face up to five years in jail and a $20,000 fine.

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