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Tuesday, March 4
Union head sees changes within a month

Associated Press

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Baseball union head Donald Fehr thinks the federal government may change the rules for using ephedra within a month.

The federal Food and Drug Administration last week proposed strong new warning labels that pills containing the herb ephedra can cause heart attacks and strokes or even kill. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said a full ban was still possible, adding: "This is not the end of the story."

Ephedra was linked by a Florida medical examiner to the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler on Feb. 17, a day after he collapsed at spring training with heatstroke.

Bechler was a star player at South Medford High School before going on to the big leagues.

"Given what happened out of HHS on Friday, there may be some changes in the law or regulatory scheme within the next 30 days," Fehr said Tuesday after speaking to the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets, the first Florida stops on his spring training tour of the 30 teams.

Players last year opposed including ephedra among the substances banned by their labor agreement, which prohibits drugs of abuse and certain illegal steroids. Fehr has said the union is awaiting Bechler's autopsy before re-examining its stance.

"There are new warning labels out -- specific warning labels -- that we will be disseminating to players," Fehr said. "We will talk to players about it and we will talk to clubs about it. As a general rule, something is either safe enough to be sold, and adults have to make responsible decision, or if it isn't the government ought to prohibit it."

On other topics, Fehr thought it was possible baseball would launch a World Cup within a few years and said players shouldn't be taxed differently than others. The union, Sammy Sosa and Albert Belle sued tax authorities in Illinois, which refused to allow them to offset Illinois taxes with taxes paid to California and other states.

"We have been concerned that professional athletes in general are being singled out to be taxed when they go to places where no one else is (taxed)," Fehr said. "That's fundamentally an unfair thing. Most of the time with state taxes at least, all of the taxes eventually net out with credits, and so what you end up doing for no particular purpose is filing 15 or 20 income tax returns."

Fehr said the union is in favor of a World Cup.

"We have thought for a very long time that it is something that needs to happen," he said. "I'm reasonably hopeful that at this point within the very near future -- maybe a year or two -- we'll be able to find a way to get a tournament, or a prototype tournament. Players want to do it, but it's logistically not the easiest thing in the world to do."

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