August 26, 2009

Court sides with union in drug list case

Federal agents improperly seized a list of 104 baseball players who tested positive for use of performance-enhancing drugs, a U.S. appeals court has ruled.

Upholding a lower court ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Wednesday federal agents had a warrant that allowed them to search the list only for 10 names.

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 Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the higher court.

The test results are based on screenings conducted in 2003, when baseball instituted drug testing but imposed no punishment for those who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The federal government took interest in the list because of its investigation into former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds' alleged use of steroids. Other names from the list leaked to the media in the past year include David Ortiz of Boston and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.

Baseball's union has been part of a 5-year effort to have the list returned.

The 2003 examination of players was meant to be confidential. If more than 5 percent of players tested positive for performance-enhancing drug use, penalties would be imposed on players who tested positive beginning in 2004.

The 2003 results were not immediately destroyed for reasons that remain unclear, The New York Times reported Wednesday night. In a statement Wednesday night, the Major League Baseball Players Association said:

The court has affirmed lower court rulings that the seizure of individual 2003 testing records violated the constitutional rights of the players and of the Players Association. ... We are very gratified by this decision, and hope that this will finally bring this long litigation to a close.