Sports Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

America's Cup postponed again

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- This could be the America's Cup that never ends. Race 4 was postponed for the fifth time Tuesday, this time because the wind on the Hauraki Gulf went from a whisper to a roar. Counting two off days, Alinghi of Switzerland and two-time defending champion Team New Zealand haven't raced in a week.

The five postponements have taken the steam out of Alinghi's march toward sailing history. The Swiss team has a 3-0 lead in the best-of-nine series and is trying to return the America's Cup to Europe for the first time in 152 years.

''It's stopped the momentum of the event,'' said Tony Thomas, head of the America's Cup organizing committee. ''Let's hope we get some racing soon. We're all getting cabin fever.''

Later in the day, anti-terror police issued a public warning after letters containing cyanide crystals and white powder were seized by postal workers. The letters, addressed to the U.S. Embassy and the British and Australian High Commissions in the capital of Wellington, referred to ''actions'' that could occur if Iraq was attacked. The letters mentioned the America's Cup races.

''It's quite a serious situation, and we wouldn't want to take it lightly,'' said Jon White, head of New Zealand's counterterrorism squad.

Consumers Union asks baseball to ban ephedra

WASHINGTON -- Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, sent a letter Monday to commissioner Bud Selig calling on Major League Baseball to ban the use of ephedra.

Baltimore pitching prospect Steve Bechler died last week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a day after collapsing at spring training with heatstroke. A medical examiner said the death may have been linked to an ephedra-based diet pill, Xenadrine RFA-1.

While ephedra is banned by the NFL, the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee, use of the substance, which is available without prescription, is allowed in baseball.

''We urge Major League Baseball and other professional sports organizations to act now to protect athletes from the known and widely acknowledged hazards of ephedra, by banning the use of herbal supplements containing ephedra by baseball players in all training and professional sporting events,'' Consumers Union wrote.

In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, Consumers Union wrote that Bechler's death ''should remind all consumers about the dangers'' of ephedra and ''should serve as a clarion call to the FDA to immediately ban dietary supplements containing ephedra from the marketplace.''

The consumer group also wrote to the FDA in November 2002 to call for such a ban.

On Sunday, baseball players' union head Donald Fehr said that taking a stand on whether to ban the supplement would be premature at this time.

''You can't, it seems to me, draw any conclusions from this tragic event at the very least until we see what the toxicology reports show,'' he said. ''We'll go from there, and if it's appropriate, obviously we'll take another hard look at the overall situation and see where it takes us.''

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