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Drug Tie In Baseball Star's Death

A drug overdose killed former NL MVP Ken Caminiti, who admitted using steroids during his playing days and tested positive for cocaine in the days before he died.

Coronary artery disease and an enlarged heart were listed as contributing factors in the death of Caminiti, Grace Brugess, spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiner, said Monday. She said the death had been ruled an accident.

The 15-year major league veteran, who won the NL MVP award in 1996, admitted in a Houston court just days before he died that he had tested positive for cocaine. Caminiti, 41, died Oct. 10 in the Bronx.

Tissue and toxicology tests confirmed Caminiti's cause of death as "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of cocaine and opiates," Brugess said. She said those drugs had weakened his heart.

Opiates are drugs that tend to have a sedative effect on the body — as opposed to cocaine, which is marked by rapid heart race and other accelerated effects.

In 2002, Caminiti told Sports Illustrated that he used steroids during his 1996 MVP season, when he hit .326 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs. He estimated about half of major league players also were using them at the time.

Early in his career, he admitted to abusing alcohol and painkillers. 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 for treatment.

"There's nothing in the report that changes the enormous amount of love that Ken had in his heart for his family, his friends and his teammates," Rick Licht, who was Caminiti's agent and lawyer, said Monday.

He said he could not comment on any past opiate use by Caminiti.

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.

By Ben Walker