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Ken Caminiti talked steroids 15 years ago

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Ken Caminiti

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reminisces this week about his Special Report that blew the lid off the not-so-well-kept secret of steroids in baseball. He asked former Padres star Ken Caminiti to go on the record about his steroid use and he did. One of the few who honestly admitted to using performance enhancing drugs.

Caminiti tells how he started using mid-season in 1996 to recover from a shoulder injury. It was in May of that year that I threw myself back into baseball. It wasn’t because the Padres actually had a good team, which they did, it was because I was extremely bored. I knew I’d be working a boring office job all summer and I’d need to kill time while filing documents. I used my 15 minute breaks to pore over the Union-Tribune sports section, and the rest of the day I’d listen to 760 KFMB or sports talk radio on a set of headphones.

There was no question that Caminiti was the star of that 1996 season. I was utterly clueless when it came to steroids. When I read Verducci’s article I was crushed. Yet if your team’s icon was going to be a steroid user, at least he was the honest one.

Ever the ideal teammate, not once, either on or off the record, did he name another player who used steroids. I’m sure he knew of others, but he took responsibility only for himself.

I don’t really care if he snitched or not, but he did take the personal responsibility and by outing the rampant steroid use he changed the game. Because of his talk with Verducci he took abuse from his fellow players and even friends. While other players continued to lie and make excuses, he said he had no regrets and nothing to hide. Even after suffering from a deterioration of his mental and physical health, he makes a chilling statement.

“I’ve made a ton of mistakes,” he said. “I don’t think using steroids is one of them.”

Not the quote you want your Little Leaguer to read, but one that’s honest. There was too much success attached to steroid use for him to make any other decision. Hopefully with continued testing and rule changes steroid use won’t be worth it to baseball’s next generation.