SAN FRANCISCO - An appeals court ruled yesterday 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, leading to a five-year legal fight.