NEW YORK -- Following the end of a seven-year legal fight, the head of baseball's players' union hailed a ruling that federal agents illegally seized the test results and samples from what was supposed to be an anonymous 2003 survey.
Union head Michael Weiner said in a statement Tuesday "this is a significant victory for our members."
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in September that the seizure of a list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids and corresponding urine samples was unlawful. The 90-day period expired Monday for the federal government to ask the Supreme Court to review that decision.
The Justice Department had said Friday it would not contest the appellate ruling.
"We are pleased that the government has decided not to pursue this case any further and to let this long legal battle end," Weiner said. "Players were promised that these 2003 test results would be anonymous and confidential. We have always believed that the seizures were improper and violated the rights of the players and the MLBPA."
Before the union could supervise the destruction of the test results and samples late in 2003, it became aware of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative investigation. After months of fruitless negotiations, federal agents obtained search warrants and subpoenas for the records of 10 players and raided the offices of Quest Diagnostics and Comprehensive Drug Testing in April 2004.
Led by then-IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky, they examined a spreadsheet containing the drug-testing records of all 104 baseball players alleged to have tested positive, mixed in on a computer with records from other sports and businesses. Agents then obtained additional search warrants and seized the corresponding urine samples.
Testing was part of baseball's effort to determine whether a stricter drug-testing policy was needed. Because 5 percent or more of the tests for steroids came back positive, it automatically triggered the start of testing with penalties in 2004.
Three district courts ruled the seizures illegal. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld the searches, but the larger panel voted 9-2 for the union in August 2009, then upheld its own decision this September in a revised opinion that removed guidelines for future searches from the majority opinion.