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Caminiti reveals his steroid use
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05/29/2002 01:21 am ET 
Caminiti reveals his steroid use
By Barry Bloom /

Ken Caminiti hits a three-run homer against the Mets on Aug. 18, 1996. (John Gaps III/AP)

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy had Ken Caminiti on his team in 1996 when the third baseman was the National League's Most Valuable Player and the team went to the playoffs.

Bochy wasn't surprised Tuesday by the report in this week's Sports Illustrated that Caminiti used steroids for part of that season. Playing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, Caminiti batted .326 with 40 homers and 130 runs batted in -- all career bests.

Caminiti said he's not alone. He and former outfielder Chad Curtis told Sports Illustrated that about 50 percent of the players currently in the Major Leagues use some form of steroids.

"By no means am I endorsing steroids," said Bochy, who managed Caminiti from 1995-1998. "It has to be a concern for the health of these players that do take them. But the tear he had in that rotator cuff, it was amazing that he was able to play and maybe otherwise he couldn't have.

"I'm not saying it's right, but I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not surprised that he was on something to get him through that year."

Caminiti, who retired from baseball after playing for the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves last season, is the first prominent baseball player to admit he took steroids to enhance his performance.

A recovering alcoholic and drug addict, Caminiti said he had made "a ton of mistakes" in his life, but using steroids was not one of them.

Caminiti was arrested last year in Houston for drug use and recently pleaded guilty to cocaine possession. He was fined $2,000 and given three years probation.

"It's no secret what's going on in baseball. At least half the guys are using (steroids)," he told Sports Illustrated. "They talk about it. They joke about it with each other. I don't want to hurt fellow teammates or fellow friends. But I have nothing to hide."

Caminiti's statements come only weeks after Jose Canseco retired from baseball and said that he would reveal who uses steroids in a tell-all autobiography about his years playing the game.

Canseco and fellow Bash Brother, Mark McGwire, were both accused of using steroids when they played for the Oakland Athletics team that won three consecutive American League pennants from 1988-1990.

McGwire, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, admitted using a muscle enhancing substance in 1998, the year he shattered Roger Maris' 37-year-old record and hit 70 homers.

Barry Bonds, who has gotten bigger and stronger as he has grown older, hit 73 homers for the San Francisco Giants and broke McGwire's record last season.

But Bonds said he doesn't use steroids and maintains that drug use in baseball is the players' business.

Major League Baseball does not test for steroid use nor does it have a comprehensive collectively bargained drug test program like the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told Sports Illustrated that he believe it's in the "the best interest of the players" to test for drugs such as steroids.

"We need to test," Selig said. "It's in the best interest of the players long term. I really believe that."

The Major League Baseball Players Association, like many labor unions, though, has resisted drug testing as a breach of privacy.

Steroid use has serious medical downsides. It elevates the body's testosterone level to increase muscle mass. The drugs, though, can cause strokes, heart and/or liver damage, elevated cholesterol levels and aggressive behavior.

"You flirt with the devil, you're going to pay him now or pay him later," said San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker. "That's the thing with any drug -- you don't know the after-effects until it's too late. If it is [detrimental], in 10-12 years you're going to be hearing some strange things."

Steroids are illegal in the U.S. unless prescribed by a doctor, but are available over-the-counter in many countries.

Gerry Hunsicker, the general manager for the Houston Astros, where Caminiti played in 1999 and 2000, said the focus Caminiti is placing on the issue might lead to some significant changes in baseball.

"This confirms that there is supplement usage in our business to some degree," Hunsicker said. "From a positive standpoint, it might shed enough light on a problem that the industry will take it seriously. It's obvious that some people are going out there with advantages that others don't have. It isn't fair."

Barry M. Bloom is a regular contributor to Sandy Burgin, Jim Molony and John Schlegel contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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