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Monday, May 03, 2004

On the Feds and Steroids: Doug Pappas at Business of Baseball has a detailed look at the seizure by federal agentsof the drug test samples from 1400 major league baseball players.

Pappas blames the federal agents for choosing to "trample on the privacy concerns" of Major League Baseball and its players. As has been stated by many, though, the seizure was perfectly legal under the 4th Amendment. There are clear ties between this lab and the Balco investigation. As a result, the government is legally justified in seizing these samples in hopes of finding evidence for its case against Balco and Victor Conte.

The real question is what will be done with this information. The government has no interest, and indeed maybe no right, to reveal what is discovered. Seizing incriminating evidence is one thing, but exposing it is another. THG was not an illegal drug when these tests were conducted. As a result, I cannot see any criminal charges coming against any players on the basis of these drug tests. What the tests could be used for, though, is to prove perjury against any players that testified in front of the grand jury. As I wrote last month on Only Baseball Matters, one can commit perjury even if he has not been or will not be charged with any offense.

How will this affect the relationship between the league and the union in regards to drug testing?

    Ultimately, it could be MLB's response to any released drug tests that determines whether or not the league and the union can work together to formulate a drug plan. If positive tests are released, MLB will be under enormous public pressure to sanction the players involved, either for committing perjury or for taking drugs. It should be remembered, though, that THG was not banned by baseball until early last year, right about the time these samples were taken. Any suspension for "drug use" could be viewed by the players association as a violation of good faith by baseball, and any suspension for "perjury" may be viewed as a facade. Thus, any action baseball takes could be met by swift condemnation by the players association, which could prevent any meaningful agreement on the drug issue.

So far, the league has been standing by the players and attempting to protect them at all costs. This bodes well for future agreements, even if all of the samples may not have been destroyed on schedule. The players and the owners both have an interest in keeping the stars on the field, and both sides know this. Expect a new agreement to be reached for testing, but one that strictly limits the storage of the samples. The samplwillil most likely be kept only long enough for a re-test and confirmation before being destroyed. Only by doing this can baseball avoid situations such as these, where it is a pawn in a much-larger government investigation.


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