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Tuesday, February 25
 
Team says ephedra contributed to Stringer's death

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- An attorney for Korey Stringer's family is accusing the Minnesota Vikings of trying to exploit the death of Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler to avoid blame in Stringer's death.

Paul DeMarco, representing widow Kelci Stringer, also said he wants to find out why the Vikings' training camp physician sought additional drug tests six weeks after Stringer's death -- something the player's family didn't find out about until this month.

Bechler died Feb. 17 from heatstroke after collapsing during a workout at training camp in Fort Lauderdale. A Florida medical examiner has said Bechler's death may have been linked to an ephedra-based diet supplement.

Stringer collapsed from heatstroke in training camp July 31, 2001, and died early the next morning. His family has filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Vikings and other parties.

Vikings attorneys filed court papers Friday claiming ephedra contributed to Stringer's death, though Stringer's remains weren't tested for the substance during investigations of his death.

DeMarco said he doesn't believe the timing is coincidental, and that there is "absolutely no evidence'' that Stringer took ephedra the day he was stricken.

"Raising this issue right now is a cynical attempt by the Vikings to parlay the tragic death of the Baltimore Orioles pitcher into an excuse for the Vikings' own wrongdoing.''

Vikings attorney James O'Neal said the timing of the team's filing had nothing to do with Bechler's death, and that it was in response to legal moves by the plaintiffs.

DeMarco also said he intends to take more depositions from Vikings' officials to learn why their training camp physician, Dr. David Knowles, asked the medical examiner for more drug tests on Stringer's blood, six weeks after the player's death.

DeMarco said the medical examiner disclosed that request in a deposition earlier this month. The medical examiner told Knowles there was no blood left to test.

Citing other papers filed in the case, DeMarco said that at the same time Knowles made the request, the doctor was also communicating with Vikings executive vice president Mike Kelly about drug tests on Stringer.

If this influenced Knowles to seek more tests, he said, it was a violation of the family's trust.

"It was all done behind the back of the Stringer family. And that's an outrage,'' DeMarco said.

O'Neal said he didn't know any details about that.

"I don't understand why anyone would think that a test of a sample would somehow be improper,'' O'Neal said.

O'Neal plans to ask Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson to dismiss the case at a hearing March 4.




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