October 11, 2004

Steroid user Caminiti dies of a heart attack

WASHINGTON - Former Major League Baseball all-star Ken Caminiti, who admitted taking steroids to boost his playing career, died Sunday of a heart attack. He was 41.

The ex-MVP of the National League in 1996 and gold glove winner was selected to the all-star team three times.

But he struggled to find his place in society once his Major League Baseball playing days ended three years ago.

He blasted 239 homers and 983 RBI and was a .272 career hitter. His best season came in 1996, when he hit 40 home runs and 130 RBI for the San Diego Padres .

The much travelled Caminiti played for Atlanta, Houston, San Diego and Texas.

Caminiti become the first American baseball player to publicly admit using steroids in 2002.

"It's no secret what's going on in baseball," said Caminiti, who retired in 2001 after 15 years in the major leagues.

"At least half the guys are using (steroids). They talk about it. They joke about it with each other."

Caminiti said he used steroids for about eight years after injuring his shoulder as a member of the San Diego Padres.

"I got really strong, really quick. I pulled a lot of muscles. I broke down a lot," he said.

Caminiti's best season was 1996 when, at age 33, he hit 40 homers had 130 runs batted in and a .326 batting average.

He said the steroid use was catching up to him.

"My tendons and ligaments got all torn up. My muscles got too strong for my tendons and ligaments.

"And now my body's not producing testosterone. You know what that's like? You get lethargic. You get depressed. It's terrible."

Caminiti is the latest athlete to die at a young age after admitting to using performance enhancing drugs.

Baseball implemented recent changes to its drug testing policies which critics have called too lax.

Caminiti is just the latest professional athlete to die after admitting steroid use.

Former National Football League star Lyle Alzado attributed excessive steroid use to the brain cancer that killed him.

Alzado, who played from 1971-85, died at 43 on May 14, 1992. He, who played for Los Angeles, Denver and Cleveland, insisted that almost 20 years of steroid use was the major contributing factor.

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