Appeals court to hear case dealing with seizure of players' samples

NEW YORK -- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will meet on Dec. 18 in Pasadena, Calif., to hear oral arguments in the case dealing with the government's seizure four years ago of baseball players' urine samples.

On Sept. 30, the circuit court set aside a three-judge panel's ruling that gave federal prosecutors the authority to use drug-testing records of major leaguers that had been taken in April 2004 and decided the full court will hear the case.

The 2-1 ruling by the three-judge panel, originally made in December 2006 and reaffirmed last January, largely overturned three lower-court decisions that had determined the government's seizure of medical records was illegal.

Internal Revenue Service agents, acting on a search warrant, seized computer files containing the test results during raids of labs involved in Major League Baseball's survey drug tests in 2003, which the union and management had agreed would remain anonymous.

The investigators had search warrants for 11 players, but ended up seizing the samples of every big league player from Quest Diagnostics of Teterboro, N.J., and Comprehensive Drug Testing of Long Beach, Calif. The government argued that it seized everything because the 11 names it wanted were mixed with the other names on computer hard drives.

Included in the seized records are samples of about 100 players who tested positive. If the government wins the case, it could use those records as evidence to question players on how they obtained steroids.

Investigators originally were interested in the test results for Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and others.

Lawyers from the Major League Baseball Players Association sued and claimed allowing the government to use the seized medical records without previous evidence of a crime would create a dangerous precedent.

Bonds has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of making false declarations to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice and is scheduled for a trial starting March 2. He's accused of lying when he said he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs during his 2003 grand jury testimony.

The appellate case is United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc., 05-10067.