Appeals court affirms federal access to positive tests

Updated: January 24, 2008, 6:16 PM ET
Associated Press

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 ruled Thursday.

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 league player.

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' constitutional rights.

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.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press