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Saturday, November 19, 2005
Players' urine samples were collected in 2003

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal prosecutors want access to hundreds of urine samples of Major League Baseball players seized in 2003 as part of the BALCO steroid scandal investigation.

Authorities had a warrant for 10 players' samples, but ended up seizing samples of hundreds of players from three laboratories.

Federal judges have prohibited the government from using the samples as part of its ongoing probe of the Bay Area Laboratory-Cooperative, which counted dozens of prominent athletes among its clients, including Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Olympic track and field star Marion Jones.

Five people have been criminally charged, four of whom have pleaded guilty, including Barry Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson. A fifth person, the man authorities allege developed "the clear," the steroid at the center of the scandal, was indicted two weeks ago and has pleaded not guilty.

No athletes have been criminally charged.

Authorities asked a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to give them access to all the samples, which were taken in 2003 as part of a professional baseball survey to gauge the prevalence of steroid use. The samples were supposed to be destroyed.

MLB this week adopted a strict drug-testing policy that calls for the permanent banishment from baseball for repeat offenders of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

The appeals court did not indicate when it would rule on the case.

Government prosecutor Erika Frick told the court that prosecutors are entitled to the samples even if their seizure was a "callous disregard" of the Constitution.

Players' association attorney Elliot Peters said "the searches were unreasonable."

The judges questioned whether the players' union had legal standing to act on behalf of the players. They also questioned whether the government filed its appeal too late and whether authorities violated constitutional search and seizure rules.

Court documents in the case are sealed.