Baseball suspends Cameron 25 games for failed test
SAN DIEGO -- Mike Cameron always had a squeaky-clean image.
He was best known for hitting four homers in a game in 2002 and for a frightening, face-to-face collision with a teammate in the outfield three seasons later. He was a family man, and his kids would hang out in the San Diego clubhouse when they visited from Atlanta.
A month after the Padres' season came to a stunning end, they got another shock Wednesday when Cameron, their Gold Glove center fielder, was suspended for the first 25 games of next season after testing positive a second time for a banned stimulant.
Cameron filed for free agency a few hours later. The suspension certainly won't help his market value in a year when All-Star center fielders Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand also are on the market.
Cameron beat the commissioner's office to the announcement, revealing the suspension during an interview on AM 1090, the Padres' flagship radio station.
"The one thing I wanted to make sure was explained is, no steroids," Cameron told the station. "I never took nothing like that before in my life. That would be 50 games, and that would affect me a whole lot more."
Cameron, who turns 35 on Jan. 8, said he thinks he took a tainted supplement.
He later issued a statement through his agent, saying doctors for the players' association helped him narrow down what triggered the positive test.
"After all of the analysis and testing, I can only conclude that a nutritional supplement I was taking was tainted," he said. "Unfortunately, the actual supplement is gone, and therefore cannot be tested. Without the actual supplement in hand, the rules are clear, and I must accept the suspension."
Players who initially test positive for a stimulant receive counseling. Suspensions begin only with a second positive test.
Neither Cameron nor his agent responded to requests for further comment.
"Mike has been a valuable member of the Padres over the last two seasons who has been respected for his contributions on the field, his stature in the clubhouse and his involvement in the San Diego community," Padres CEO Sandy Alderson said in a statement.
"Accordingly, the Padres are extremely disappointed that Mike has tested positive for a stimulant banned by MLB's drug policy. Nonetheless, the Padres staunchly support that policy and hope that Mike's suspension serves as a reminder that performance-enhancing drugs have no place in professional sports."
General manager Kevin Towers said the suspension wouldn't necessarily preclude the Padres from re-signing Cameron. But it would appear to be a long shot considering the two sides couldn't agree to an extension last spring.
"It would have been difficult, based on our conversations in the spring, but we were still somewhat hopeful," Towers said. "With this, I don't know how it affects his standing out there. From Mike's standpoint, I certainly hope it doesn't hurt. But for the first month of the season, whoever signs him will not have his services.
"He was a great teammate, a great person," Towers said. "He made a mistake, got caught and will pay for it now. With public disclosure, I'm sure it's embarrassing for the player. Knowing Mike Cameron the individual, he'll become a better man for it."
Towers said Cameron didn't tell the team what substance he tested positive for. The GM also said he didn't know about the suspension until Tuesday.
Cameron missed almost the entire final week of the season after fellow outfielder Milton Bradley inadvertently stepped on his right hand while the two pursued an inside-the-park home run by Colorado's Garrett Atkins on Sept. 23. Cameron made a pinch-running appearance in San Diego's 13-inning loss at Colorado on Oct. 1 in the wild-card tiebreaker.
Cameron's offensive numbers fell off in his second season with the Padres, as he batted just .242 and struck out 160 times. He hit 21 homers.
On May 2, 2002, with Seattle, Cameron became the 13th player in big league history to hit four home runs in a game. On Aug. 11, 2005, he was seriously injured when he collided face-to-face with Mets teammate Carlos Beltran in a game against the Padres. The Padres obtained Cameron in a trade with the Mets that offseason.
The only other player suspended for testing positive for stimulants under Major League Baseball's drug program was Detroit infielder Neifi Perez, who received a 25-game suspension on July 6 following his second positive test, and an 80-game suspension on Aug. 3 following his third positive test.
Cameron's suspension came a year after another San Diego star, Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, was suspended for four games after testing positive for steroids. Merriman also blamed a tainted supplement.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press