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

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

"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

"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