A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that investigators who seized a list containing the names of over 100 Major League Baseball players in their probe of the Balco matter overstepped the bounds of their search warrant, which authorized seizure of test results from only 10 players. But the major fallout from that violation -- the ongoing leaking of supposedly-confidential positive results -- is not likely to stop as a result.
The opinion by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stated that federal investigators clearly overstepped their bounds when, acting on information received in their probe of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative's steroid dealings, they executed a search warrant at the offices of Comprehensive Drug Testing in Long Beach, California, and seized a list containing names of over 100 baseball players (and many others) who had tested positive for steroids.
The investigators apparently used the information gleaned from the list to further their investigations into people well beyond the ten listed in the search warrant.
As a result of the ruling, the government will have to return the lists
of names and the urine samples that it improperly seized. The loss of
this evidence will likely halt any further investigation or prosecution
of athletes implicated by the CDT tests. But it won't do much to help
the athletes already outed, or others on the CDT list.
Players like Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz have already seen their names
leaked from the CDT list, and obviously there is no way to undo that.
And other players on the list may not be out of the woods either,
because while the likelihood of a criminal prosecution now drops to
near zero, additional leaks of names from the list are not any less
That's because the leaker(s) were already breaking the law
by releasing information from a document under court seal. Their
motives, and their knowledge of which players were on the list, are
unlikely to be changed by a court ruling whose primary effect is to
halt criminal prosecution of the athletes involved. So don't be
surprised if names continue to pop up in the future.