From the AP:
An appeals court ruled Wednesday that federal agents were wrong to seize the infamous drug list and samples of 104 Major League Baseball players who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.In a 9-2 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with three lower court judges who chastised investigators who had a warrant for only 10 drug test results as part of the BALCO investigation into Barry Bonds and others.
The panel said federal agents trampled on players’ protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said the players’ union had good reason to want to keep the list under wraps, citing leaks of players purportedly on the list.
“The risk to the players associated with disclosure, and with that the ability of the Players Association to obtain voluntary compliance with drug testing from its members in the future, is very high,” the judge wrote. “Indeed, some players appear to have already suffered this very harm as a result of the government’s seizure.”
Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Red Sox slugger David Ortiz both have acknowledged being on the list, and The New York Times has reported the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa also could be found on it.
The government seized the samples and records in April 2004. The list of 104 players said to have tested positive, attached to a grand jury subpoena, has been part of a five-year legal fight, with the players’ union trying to force the government to return what federal agents took during raids.
“This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause,” Kozinski wrote.
He said the case was a significant test of the government’s search and seizure powers in the digital age, and issued guidelines for investigators to follow in future raids that included submitting computers to independent computer experts for sorting of data.
Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder Victor Conte has long been critical of the actions of the government, especially then lead investigator Jeff Novitzky.
“I have said that Novitzky has been using illegal tactics and not following the law since the day of the BALCO raid,” Conte said. “He seems to just make up his own rules as he goes along.”
This is why the list will never be fully released. There are too many legalities involved and, while I’m not sure if this is possible, those who leak information about the list could potentially face legal repercussions (at least that’s what the players’ union is hoping). We’re often quick to demonize the players found on the list, such as A-Rod or David Ortiz, however, while they cheated, it’s clear now that they’re not only victims in the sense that the list was supposed to be a private matter, but they’re also victims of government abuse. For that reason, the rest of the names will likely remain under wraps.
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