Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Players react to court ruling
BOSTON -- David Ortiz sat at the computer in the home clubhouse at Fenway Park, checking his e-mail, when a group of reporters sidled up to him with some news: A federal court ruled investigators were wrong to seize the list of baseball players who allegedly failed drug tests in 2003.
A list that included Ortiz.
"I don't care," he said, so softly he had to repeat it even though the reporters were just inches away.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 9-2 vote Wednesday that federal agents violated the players' protections against unreasonable searches and seizures when it confiscated a list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Investigators only had a warrant for 10 drug test results as part of the BALCO investigation into Barry Bonds and others, the court said -- not the 104 results it seized.
"This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, adding that the players' union had good reason to want to keep the list secret. "Some players appear to have already suffered this very harm as a result of the government's seizure."
Although the list was under seal, several names have leaked out, including Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa.
Was Ortiz disappointed the ruling came too late to save him from a maelstrom of media attention about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs?
"I guess," Ortiz, who has denied using steroids, said without ever looking away from the computer screen.
Baseball players agreed in 2003 to survey drug testing without penalties to determine the extent of steroid use in the sport. There were 104 positive tests, though the players' association has said some could be multiple failures from the same player and others might not have held up on appeal.
In 2004, federal agents obtained a search warrant and seized the records from two labs. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the government overstepped its authority.
"A lot of people's credibility and a lot of people's dignity have been damaged in this," Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "It's not fair to the clean players. It's not fair to the players who've been leaked. Get 'em all out there so we can start the healing process. It's not going to stop until they're all out there."
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen agreed the story won't go away until the entire list is released.
"Whoever's got the list, get them out of there, make us suffer for couple days and move on," he said. "Just get the thing out. Clear the thing and move on. Move on and this game is going to be better."
Kansas City Royals pitcher Brian Bannister disagreed.
"It was done in a confidential matter, and I think it should stay that way," he said. "I think the law should be upheld. It was done according to law."
Minnesota Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said the slow trickle of leaking names has been difficult -- even for players who have never been connected with the list.
"It's like you almost get punched in every round, and just when you think the round is over the next one starts again," he said. "You're a Major League Baseball player, and the casual fan sees this negative publicity and see who's cheating and not cheating and automatically they associate every Major League Baseball player with that -- right, wrong or indifferent. And that's not fair."
Other players said they wanted to see a different list of names: Those who might be illegally leaking the names to reporters.
"Leak the names that leaked the names," said St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals' player representative. "People are obviously breaking the law acquiring those names, and it's not the agreement the federal government had with Major League Baseball. Those names were court-sealed. For crying out loud, you can't release them, period."