The United States government illegally violated the privacy rights of 104 major league baseball players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs during a survey period in 2003, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.
The courts decision was a reaffirmation of an earlier judicial rebuke, but it will undoubtedly come as a small consolation to those players whose names have already been leaked. Regardless of how one feels about players who took PEDs, the government’s reprehensible conduct in seizing the information as well as its irresponsibility in leaking it are by far the much bigger crime.
Although the government will no longer be able to use the list as the basis for further investigations, damage has already been done to players like Alex Rodriguez, whose name was reportedly on the list. After all, the backbone of the allegations against Arod was the illegally obtained list, so had the government not acted outside the bounds of the law, the Yankees’ third baseman would not have been exposed to the scrutiny that eventually led to his admission.
I am sure most people have no sympathy for Rodriguez, or any other player ensnared because of the government’s illegal search and seizure, but that doesn’t change the fact that their rights were violated. If not for the negative public response, players like Rodriguez would be wise to consider suing the federal government for the damages its illegal actions caused. That’s unlikely to happen, but at the very least, hopefully this decision will force federal prosecutors to not only pull in the reigns, but perhaps turn their attention to the more concerning leaks emanating from their ranks. After all, breaking the law and violating the rights of citizens is not worth uncovering PED use among athletes. Perhaps in light of the recent Wikileaks scandal, the federal government now has a better understanding of this principal.