IRS agents serve warrant at Las Vegas lab

Updated: April 12, 2004, 12:23 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal authorities probing an alleged steroid distribution ring have seized the results and samples of drug tests on selected major league baseball players from a drug-testing lab, a spokesman for the lab said Friday.

Internal Revenue Service agents served a search warrant to obtain "documentation and specimens" from a Quest Diagnostics lab in Las Vegas, Quest spokesman Gary Samuels said.

Samuels could not say whether IRS agents took the drug-test results or specimen of Barry Bonds, but said the agents took materials consistent with a federal subpoena that had sought test results and specimens from the San Francisco Giants' slugger and fewer than a dozen other players. Among them were New York Yankees Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi.

"We've been cooperating fully and completely with the government throughout the criminal investigation," Samuels told ESPN Radio's GameNight. "When we were finally presented with the numbers that we needed to identify the documents and specimens, we gave them to the federal agent."

Lab employees, however, could not identify the specimens taken.

"The specimens are collected ... they're coded by a third party administrator and they arrive at the laboratory anonymously ... so the people in the testing facility, our laboratory, do not know any names," Samuels told GameNight.

The raid occurred Thursday, shortly after the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a motion in a San Francisco court seeking to squash that subpoena.

IRS spokesman Mark Lessler and U.S. Attorney's spokeswoman Ji-Yon Yi both said Friday they could not comment.

Samuels said the IRS agents served the search warrant on the Quest lab after obtaining a coded list from California-based Comprehensive Drug Testing that matched players to the results and the samples.

Teterboro, N.J.-based Quest and Long Beach, Calif.-based Comprehensive Drug Testing did the tests last year for Major League Baseball, which was trying to determine the prevalence of steroid use among players. When more than 5 percent of those tests came back positive, the major leagues began a new testing program this season that includes punishments for those caught using steroids.

The tests were supposed to remain anonymous. But a federal grand jury in San Francisco that issued indictments in February against four men for allegedly distributing steroids to professional athletes sought the results as part of its probe.

One of those indicted Feb. 12 was Greg Anderson, the personal trainer for Bonds -- who, along with Sheffield, Giambi and dozens of other pro athletes, testified before the grand jury.

The grand jury's probe focuses on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and has led to charges against four men: BALCO founder Victor Conte, BALCO vice president James Valente, track coach Remi Korchemny and Anderson. All have pleaded not guilty and are free on bail.

Bonds, Sheffield and Giambi have not been charged in the case and repeatedly have denied using steroids.

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said Monday that approximately 500 urine samples remain from last year's drug tests. He could not say if samples for Bonds, Sheffield, Giambi and the other players named in the subpoena are among that batch.

Two samples were taken from each of the more than 1,400 major league players last season. Most were destroyed, but about 500 were saved when the grand jury issued its subpoena.

Since two tests were taken on each player, the surviving tests could have come from as few as 250 players or as many as 500.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press