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The infamous list that has haunted baseball, and grouped together some of the game’s best players as cheaters, has been determined to be taken illegally.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that federal agents were wrong in seizing 104 names from two companies holding the results of a 2003 league-wide drug survey. The agents originally had a warrant to only search for ten names, but collected the others when it was determined that the rest of the names were left in the open.
The Appeals Court made its judgment saying that the seizure of the list was in violation of the fourth amendment of the Constitution. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said, “This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause.”
BALCO, the laboratory infamous for its work with Barry Bonds, has been critical of the government’s handling of the situation. Founder Victor Conte said,”I have said that (lead investigator Jeff) Novitzky has been using illegal tactics and not following the law since the day of the BALCO raid… He seems to just make up his own rules as he goes along.”
It is likely that the government will now bring the case to the Supreme Court for a final ruling. However, it is unlikely that the court will rule in favor of the government. This is an obvious illegal seizure, but already, damage has been done.
Ever Since Barry Bonds was being suspected of steroid use, the government has been conducting a Salem Witch Trial on Major League Baseball. There was obviously an issue at hand, but was it right for Congress to step in? They called Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero, Curt Shilling, and Commissioner Bud Selig in front of a panel that included current Vice-President Joe Biden, who went on a rant about cheating.
What came from the hearings was nothing new: baseball has a drug problem. A blemish was brought upon America’s pastime. This was one year after the results were taken, but years before any names were leaked. Since that time, Major League Baseball has changed its stance on violators of the rules and top names have been suspended. Just when it seemed to be making a full recovery, with the Red Sox and White Sox ended World Series droughts, the 104 names on the list began popping up.
David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa were some of the names that have been leaked to journalists. The original tests were to be voluntary, anonymous, and were to be used to see if more then five percent of players were using banned performance enhancing drugs.
According to ESPN, MLBPA lawyer Elliot Peters said it was criminal that the names were leaked and that those who leaked the names should be punished. “If the government hadn’t unconstitutionally seized this in the first place, there wouldn’t have been any leaks,” Peters said.
In the end, it is most likely that Major League Baseball will obtain the list again. Should the case be brought to the Supreme Court, the Government will have a hard time arguing that they had the right to take an extra 94 names, when they only had warrants for ten. It will then be up the MLB to decide what to do.
Many, such as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, have publicly stated to release the whole list and get it out there. It is hard to think MLB will do that, considering the original test was to be anonymous. Should it be released in its entirety, it could put a strain on the league and players in complying to further tests.
The list could always be destroyed and MLB can take the heat and hope to recover in the future. However, the names Rodriguez, Ortiz, Ramirez and others, have been damaged. For the rest of their careers, those players will have to bear the weight of their appearance on this list.
It is no longer a secret that there were/are drugs in baseball. Players have been violating the rules and integrity of the game for some time. Although the list was taken illegally, it was in public perception that there were problems much earlier. Baseball can recover, and obtaining this list is just the beginning.