Subpoenaed players' samples won't be returned

Federal prosecutors have been ordered to return nearly all of the drug testing results and samples of major-league baseball players that were seized from a drug-testing lab, a high-ranking baseball official said Friday.

Internal Revenue Service agents served a search warrant and took the records last April 8, a day after the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a motion to quash the subpoenas. The union then filed a motion in federal court to have the records and urine samples returned.

The court ordered the records and samples returned, except for those involving the players subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating illegal steroid distribution, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The New York Daily News first reported the decision Friday.

Quest Diagnostics spokesman Gary Samuels could not contact his company's lawyers late Friday and did not know about any decision. IRS spokesman Mark Lessler said he could not comment.

Michael Weiner, the union's general counsel, and Rob Manfred, baseball's top labor lawyer, both declined comment, citing the court's decision to keep the proceedings about the records sealed.

San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi and Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield were among those who testified before the grand jury in San Francisco. They have not been charged.

Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was among four men indicted last Feb. 12, with the government alleging they supplied performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of athletes in the NFL, baseball and track and field.

Also indicted were Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative at the center of the case; James Valente, BALCO's vice president; and track coach Remi Korchemny, whose sprinters won gold medals but then flunked drug tests. All four have pleaded not guilty and await trial.

Baseball players and owners, partly because of the attention drawn by the case, announced more frequent testing for steroids Thursday and tougher penalties for those who test positive. The new rules run until December 2008, meaning the sides do not have to revisit the matter when the rest of their collective bargaining
agreement expires on Dec. 19, 2006.