Feds close to getting proof of steroid use in baseball
Posted: Friday December 29, 2006 3:19PM; Updated: Friday December 29, 2006 10:57PM
Many people suspect Barry Bonds of steroid use. Will federal agents finally get evidence that proves it?
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Despite 24 months of massive resistance from the baseball players union, federal agents are closing in on a jackpot of powerful evidence that documents the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
The evidence includes nearly 300 urine samples taken from more than 100 baseball players who tested positive for steroids in 2003 and thousands of pages of computerized records of drug tests. Included in the records is a "hard copy document with names and identifying numbers for all MLB players," according to a decision issued Wednesday by an appeals court in San Francisco that endorsed the government's seizures of the evidence and authorized its use in the continuing BALCO investigation.
Using the samples, now housed in a government lab in Los Angeles, and the scorecard listing players and their sample numbers, the government now will be able to link individual players to their test results. It could become important in the inquiry into possible perjury charges against Barry Bonds and others.
This was not what Donald Fehr, Gene Orza and the players had in mind when, after long and arduous bargaining, they agreed to limited steroid testing for the 2003 season. The idea was that the testing would measure the use of steroids to see if it was a serious problem. It was to be a survey. Players who tested positive would not be punished.
The union accepted the survey testing only when Commissioner Bud Selig and the owners agreed to keep all results secret. The agreement included detailed and rigorous provisions to protect the identities of players, and it provided for the destruction of all samples and tests.
The testing agreement was a temporary solution to a problem, but now the solution has produced even worse problems. For reasons that are not yet known, the samples and the test results were not destroyed in accordance with the agreement. Three months after the 2003 season ended, on Jan. 16, 2004, federal investigators issued the first of four grand jury subpoenas demanding the samples and the test results. It was the beginning of a litigation process that consumed the next 24 months, included seven searches of labs and offices, produced nearly 20 pounds of legal briefs and documents, and led to the appellate decision that is a rare and significant loss the union that has enjoyed triumph after triumph under the leadership of Fehr and Marvin Miller.
The union and its lawyers fought the federal investigators at every step of the process. The battle began over the first subpoena served on a testing lab. Union officials managed to obtain delay after delay in the lab's response to the subpoena. Then, when the union finally went to court to quash the subpoena, government agents obtained a search warrant that allowed them to go into the lab and grab the material listed in the original subpoena.