Feds Can Keep MLB Drug Testing Records
Your employer wants you to submit to drug testing but assures you that the results will be kept confidential. Is your privacy protected? Don't count on it.
Baseball players supplied urine samples in 2003 to help Major League Baseball get a handle on the number of players who use steroids.
Baseball players were told the results would be confidential, and each player was assigned a code number to be matched with his name.
A day before the results were to be destroyed, federal agents issued subpoenas compelling production of test results for ten players, including Barry Bonds, who is suspected of fibbing to a grand jury when he denied using steroids. Armed with warrants for the ten test results, agents in 2004 seized the results of tests of about one hundred players, most of whom weren't named in the subpoenas or warrants.
This expanded search didn't bother the Ninth Circuit, which reversed (pdf) two lower court rulings favoring the Players Association that would have required the government to return any test results that weren't described in the warrants. The dissent offers an analysis that's more faithful to players' legitimiate expectations of privacy in their medical records. Here's the concluding paragraph:
In discussions of the alleged use of steroids by baseball players, much is made about “the integrity of the game.” Even more important is the integrity of our legal system. Perhaps baseball has become consumed by a “Game of Shadows,” but that is no reason for the government to engage in a "Prosecution of Shadows.” The district judges were entirely right to order the government to return the thousands of private medical records it wrongfully seized by use of pretext and artifice.
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