Feb. 28: Padres general manager Kevin Towers says he knew late star Ken Caminiti was using steroids when he was in San Diego.
San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers said he strongly suspected late star Ken Caminiti was using steroids but kept quiet about it because the team was doing well at the box office partly because of Caminiti's hitting, ESPN reported.
I feel somewhat guilty, because I felt like I knew," Towers told ESPN. "I still don't know for sure, but Cammy came out and said that he used steroids, and I suspected. Selfishly, the guy was putting up numbers, and I didn't do anything about it. That's just the truth."
Towers thus becomes the first person in the management level of major-league baseball to acknowledge that he knew at least one of his players was using steroids, ESPN said.
"The truth is, we're in a competitive business," Towers told ESPN, "and these guys were putting up big numbers and helping your ballclub win games. You tended to turn your head on things. And it really wakes you up when someone you admire as a person is no longer around. You can't help but think, could I have done something differently four or five years ago that might have changed what happened to him?
"I hate to be the one voice for the other 29 GMs, but I'd have to imagine that all of them, at one point or other, had reason to think that a player on their ballclub was probably using, based on body changes and things that happened over the winter."
Bill Janscha / AP
Former National League MVP Ken Caminiti died Oct. 10 because of a drug overdose.
In 2002, Caminiti told Sports Illustrated that he used steroids during the 1996 season.
"We went through a real difficult time in 1994, with the strike," Towers told ESPN. "Then some amazing things happened. Home runs were up. Fans were flocking to ballparks, lining up to watch batting practice. But we all realized that there were things going on within the game that were affecting the integrity of the game. I think we all knew it, but we didn't say anything about it."
A drug overdose killed Caminiti, who tested positive for cocaine in the weeks before he died at age 41 and had admitted using steroids during his playing days, a medical examiner ruled in early November.
Coronary artery disease and an enlarged heart were listed as contributing factors in the death Oct. 10, medical examiner's spokeswoman Grace Brugess said. The death was ruled an accident.
The 15-year major league veteran, who won the National League's Most Valuable Player title in 1996, admitted in a Houston court just days before he died that he had tested positive for cocaine.
Opiates have a sedative effect on the body — as opposed to cocaine, which is marked by rapid heartbeat and other accelerated effects.
Friends had expressed shock when he died, saying he had been trying to turn his life around.
On Oct. 5, Caminiti admitted to a judge that he violated his probation by testing positive for cocaine in September. It was his fourth failed drug test since he was put on three years' probation for cocaine possession in March 2002.
He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but was quickly freed because he received credit for time served in jail or treatment.
Caminiti retired in 2001 after a career that included two stints with the Houston Astros, four years with the Padres and brief tours with the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves.
He returned to baseball this year as a spring training instructor with the Padres. His lawyer said after his death that Caminiti had hoped eventually to mentor young players about avoiding the mistakes he made.
Baseball's steroid scandal