WASHINGTON -- The government will not contest an appeals court ruling that investigators illegally seized a list of baseball players who allegedly tested positive for steroids, the Justice Department said Friday. That decision keeps intact a legal victory for scores of ballplayers snared in the doping investigation.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the solicitor general's office will not ask the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.
In September, the court ordered investigators to return the list of 104 players, effectively barring them from using the players to expand their eight-year-long sports doping probe. The list had been seized in a 2004 drug lab raid.
Charged in the long-running probe of steroid use is former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who is scheduled to go on trial March 21 for allegedly lying to a grand jury when he denied knowingly taking steroids.
In April 2004, agents took urine samples and records from Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. and Quest Diagnostics Inc. They were armed with a search warrant authorizing them to seize the results of 10 players.
But the agents came away with an entire hard drive and retrieved a spreadsheet with the names of 104 players who allegedly tested positive during the 2003 Major League Baseball season. Those test results were supposed to remain anonymous and were to be used only to determine if baseball should institute mandatory drug testing.
The players' union went to court, complaining that the raids were illegal and asking that the records and samples be returned.
Three different trial judges ruled in favor of the union. A divided three judge panel of the 9th Circuit in 2006 ruled in favor of the government. But a larger, 11-judge panel voted 9-2 in August 2009 and again in September that the government was wrong to seize the entire list.
The Bonds trial was delayed for two years while prosecutors unsuccessfully appealed a judge's order barring the use of some evidence and blocking prosecutors from presenting to the jury urine tests showing steroid use prosecutors said belonged to Bonds.