Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 19 News List

MLB players union to appeal release of drug test results

AFP , LOS ANGELES

The Major League Baseball Players Association on Thursday indicated it would challenge an appeals court ruling giving investigators access to supposedly confidential drug test results of some of its members.

A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal, hearing the case of the US vs Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc, said on Wednesday that lower courts erred in blocking access to the information.

The results of the tests conducted by Major League Baseball in 2003 could provide evidence as to whether any of the star players who testified to a grand jury in the BALCO steroid scandal -- including San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds -- committed perjury.

However, the players union and two laboratories involved in the testing, Quest Diagnostics and Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc, argued that seizure of the records violated privacy rights.

"We respectfully disagree with the two judges who comprised the majority in this case," union executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement on Thursday.

"As the dissent noted, if this opinion is allowed to stand, it will effectively repeal the Fourth Amendment for confidential electronic records," he said.

"Under a search warrant seeking information about only 11 baseball players, confidential records for every player were seized, along with confidential records of thousands of other people with no connection to baseball, including many with no connection to sports," Fehr said.

"The government seeks to retain all of this private information about thousands of people who were not the subject of any criminal inquiry," he said.

"We will consult with our counsel, and then determine what our next step should be in our fight to protect the Constitutional rights -- including the basic right to privacy -- of our members," he said.

Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote in Wednesday's majority opinion that the subpoenas that gathered the information "were not unreasonable and did not constitute harassment."

But Judge Sidney Thomas dissented from the majority opinion, writing that the actions of the government suggest "an abuse of grand jury process."

"Much is made about the `integrity of the game,'" Thomas wrote. "Even more important is the integrity of our legal system."

Five people pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the BALCO investigation, including the supplement laboratory's founder Victor Conte and Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson.

Earlier this month, cyclist Tammy Thomas became the first athlete indicted in the fall-out over BALCO when she was indicted for perjury over allegations that she lied to a grand jury.

Athletics coach Trevor Graham last month pleaded not guilty to charges he gave false statements to BALCO investigators.

Wednesday's ruling sparked speculation that the test data could bolster a perjury case against Bonds, who told a grand jury investigating BALCO that he never knowingly took steroids.

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