Thursday, January 24, 2008
Appeals court affirms federal access to positive tests
SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal investigators can keep using the
names and urine samples of about 100 major leaguers who tested
positive for performance-enhancing drugs, a federal appeals court
After agreeing to reconsider its own December 2006 ruling
granting access to the evidence, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals voted 2-1 to affirm two parts of its decision in three
consolidated cases, which overturned rulings by U.S. District
Judges Susan Illston in San Francisco and James Mahan in Las Vegas
that barred authorities from accessing the names.
The appeals court reversed itself 3-0 on the third lower court
decision, saying the federal government didn't make a timely appeal
in the case heard by U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in
Los Angeles, who had ruled for the players' association.
Access to the names could bolster the perjury case against Barry Bonds, who is charged with lying to a grand jury about whether he used steroids.
Players are likely to ask to have the entire 9th Circuit rehear
the case. They also could ask the Supreme Court to take the case.
Baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, Rob
Manfred, and players' association general counsel Michael Weiner
declined to comment because they hadn't yet read the decision.
Investigators seized computer files containing the test results
in 2004 during raids of labs involved in Major League Baseball's
drug-testing program. The investigators had search warrants for
only 11 players, but ended up seizing the test results of every big
The government argued that it seized everything because the 11
names it wanted were irrevocably mixed with the other names on
computer hard drives.
The players' union sued to keep the government from accessing
the records, saying the seizures violated the players'
The samples were collected at baseball's direction the previous
year as part of a survey to gauge the prevalence of steroid use.
Players and owners agreed in their labor contract that the
results would be confidential, and each player was assigned a code
number to be matched with his name.
Quest Diagnostics of Teterboro, N.J., one of the largest
drug-testing firms in the nation, analyzed more than 1,400 urine
samples from players that season. Comprehensive Drug Testing of
Long Beach, Calif., coordinated the collection of specimens and
compiled the data.
With data from both labs, government officials were able to
discern the names of the players who tested positive.