balco-steroidsAn AP report focuses on the high-tech side of the most massive doping scandal in the United States referred to as the BALCO Affair.

There is an ongoing legal dilemma amongst federal judges relating to the seizure of urine samples of more than 100 major league players not originally involved in the BALCO steroid investigation.

The battle is now at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in which an 11-member panel must decide whether prosecutors had the legal right to seize the names and urine samples of the 104 players during a raid carried out in 2004.

“There has to be limits when the government seizes vast amount of information on a computer,” Major League Baseball Players Association lawyer Elliot Peters said.

The federal agents who took the material from the Long Beach-based Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. had a search warrant for the test results of just 10 players, but discovered on a computer spreadsheet the test results of additional players.

The players’ association went to court, and lower-court judges ruled the additional names were seized illegally. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed those decisions twice in 2-1 votes, but the entire 9th Circuit set the reversal aside and decided to hear the case en banc.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Wilson argued Thursday the government had a legal right to investigate all of the players who tested positive because their names and test results were on a single document containing the names of the 10 players listed in the search warrant. Wilson said since the government was entitled to 10 players’ test results, it was entitled to the entire spreadsheet.

Wilson’s argument was attacked early and often by at least six judges, who expressed doubt that a computer spreadsheet is analogous to a paper document, which investigators have a right to seize so long as it contains evidence listed in the search warrant.

“When you are talking about computers, a single document can contain vast amounts of information,” Judge Kim Wardlaw said.
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Judge Mylan Smith was even more pointed, complaining that allowing the government on narrowly focused investigations to seize computer databases, hard drives and spreadsheets containing large amounts of information “would probably be frightening to the public because there’s no end to it.”

The BALCO Affair has involved several famous athletes and has resulted to congressional hearings and independent investigations. Most prominent of these investigations is the Mitchell Report, which has probed the use of steroids in the Major League Baseball.

Several personalities were prosecuted and jailed because of their involvement in said scandal including BALCO’s founder Victor Conte, chemist Patrick Arnold who designed “the clear”, containing testosterone, an anabolic steroid, and track athlete Marion Jones.

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